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May 22, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Former Penn State All-America linebacker Shane Conlan, the leader of the Nittany Lions' tenacious 1985-86 defenses, has been elected to the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame. Conlan is the 18th Penn State player to receive college football's ultimate honor.
Conlan will be inducted with other members of the Class of 2014 at the National Football Foundation's 57th annual awards dinner on December 9 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. He will become the 23rd member of the Penn State program inducted, joining 17 other former players and five Nittany Lion coaches. The most recent Penn State player so honored was running back Curt Warner in 2009.
"It's a great honor to join all the former Penn State players and all the great players in the College Football Hall of Fame," said Conlan. "It's very humbling. The list of nominees was such a distinguished group."
A native of Frewsburg, N.Y, Conlan was a standout at Frewsburg Central High School before matriculating to Penn State, where he was instrumental in the Nittany Lions posting a 23-1 mark his last two seasons, capped by the 1986 National Championship. A senior co-captain in 1986, Conlan led Penn State to a stunning 14-10 win over No. 1 Miami (Fla.) in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl to capture Penn State's second national title in five seasons.
"Shane was one of the greatest linebackers in our long and outstanding LinebackerU. heritage and we are thrilled for him," said Dave Joyner, Penn State Director of Athletics. "His intense, physical play and leadership were exciting to watch. Most importantly, though, is how he has conducted himself on or off the field; always with humility and class. His demeanor, drive and success after football serve as another example for all our student-athletes -- past, present and future. We are very proud of Shane and elated he has earned college football's most prestigious honor."
"The Penn State football family is ecstatic that Shane Conlan has been selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame," said Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin. "Shane is one of the primary reasons why so many people know about the unrivaled tradition of LinebackerU. Shane was a fierce, tough competitor and leader and we are excited that he is being appropriately recognized for his outstanding career with his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame."
Conlan capped his career by leading a superlative defensive effort in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl to earn the game's Most Valuable Defensive Player, recording eight tackles and two interceptions to lead Penn State past previously unbeaten Miami for the 1986 national title. Conlan led a Nittany Lion defense that forced seven turnovers, including a season-high five interceptions of Vinny Testaverde, the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner. He returned his second interception 38 yards to the Miami five-yard-line to set-up D.J. Dozier's game winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"Having an opportunity to play for two national championships while I was at Penn State was special," said Conlan, who lives in suburban Pittsburgh. "The championship game at the Fiesta Bowl was the best game I ever played in during all my years playing football. My first practice as an 18-year-old freshman and making my first start are other memories that stand out for me."
A four-year letterman and a three-year starter for Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno, Conlan was a consensus first-team All-American in 1986. He was recognized by the Associated Press, AFCA/Kodak, FWAA, Walter Camp, UPI, College and Pro Football Newsweekly and Football News. As a junior in 1985, Conlan was selected a first-team All-American by Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) and named a second-team All-American by UPI and Football News.
Conlan was very appreciative of the opportunity to play for Paterno, who was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 2007. "He was a wonderful man. I owe him everything; he took a chance on me. He knew most of us wouldn't play in the NFL, so he taught us everything we would need to know in life. He was a father figure to all of us."
Conlan led Penn State in tackles during the 1984 and 1986 seasons. He recorded 274 career tackles, which were tied for No. 2 on the Penn State list when his career ended and remain No. 7 on the school tackle list. Conlan made 186 career solo hits, which still rank No. 3 on the school list (held solo tackles record for 20 years).
During his career (regular season games only), Conlan caused 10 fumbles, recovered four fumbles, recorded 16 sacks (minus-148 yards) and had 25 tackles for loss (minus-215 yards).
Conlan led the 1986 national title team (12-0) with 79 tackles, including a team-high 63 solo stops. He also had a team-high eight tackles for loss, five sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble caused, one interception and six pass break-ups (statistics do not include 1987 Fiesta Bowl). Penn State limited all 12 opponents to 19 points or less, with five scoring 10 points or less. The Nittany Lions were No. 3 nationally in scoring defense at 11.2 ppg, allowing just 29 points the first half in 11 regular season games (2.6 avg.). Penn State also was No. 3 in rushing defense (69.7 ypg) and No. 11 in total defense (283.4 ypg).
Conlan was a Butkus Award finalist and earned Penn State's Outstanding Senior Player Award in 1986. He was selected to play in 1987 Japan Bowl all-star game.
In 1985, Conlan helped Penn State to an 11-0 regular season, falling to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl for the national championship. He recorded 91 tackles (57 solo), forced four fumbles, recovered one fumble and recorded four sacks (minus-38) during his junior campaign. Conlan made a season-high 14 tackles in a 27-0 win over West Virginia and he also made 13 hits in wins over Pitt (31-0) and Rutgers (17-10).
Conlan led a Penn State defense that held seven of 11 regular season opponents to 12 points or less in 1985, with 10 of 11 scoring 20 points or less. The Nittany Lions ranked No. 5 nationally in scoring defense at 11.6 ppg. In the 1986 Orange Bowl against the Sooners, Conlan made six solo tackles, with three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery, to earn Defensive Player of the Game honors.
"The 1985 defense might have been better than the one in '86," Conlan recalled. "We all played together for so many years. We were a close, tight team that played for each other. We had great chemistry and liked and respected each other. There weren't any superstars on those teams; just a lot of really good football players that came together."
Conlan led the 1984 squad with 77 tackles (48 solo), recording a team-high 10 tackles for loss, five sacks, forced three fumbles and recovered two fumbles. He made a career-high 15 tackles in Penn State's 6-0 win at Alabama as a sophomore.
The Buffalo Bills selected Conlan with the No. 8 overall pick in the first round of 1987 NFL Draft to launch a stellar nine-year professional career. He played with Buffalo (1987-92) and Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams (1993-95), starting 114 of 120 career games. Conlan recorded 751 tackles over his nine NFL seasons.
The western New York native was instrumental in helping Buffalo win consecutive AFC Championships and AFC East titles in 1990, 1991 and 1992. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1988, 1989 and 1990 and named an Associated Press second-team All-Pro in 1987, 1988 and 1990. Conlan was selected the NFL Rookie of the Year by the Professional Football Writers of America, the Old Spice/NFL Rookie of the Year and the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after leading the Bills with 114 tackles in 1987. Conlan was the Daniel F. Reeves Memorial Award winner in 1994 as the St. Louis Rams' Team MVP.
Inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, Conlan was named to the Buffalo Bills' 50th Anniversary Team. Conlan also was inducted into the Chautauqua County (N.Y.) Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. At the time of his induction, was the youngest member to be inducted into the Hall.
Among his community service activities, he organizes and hosts the Shane Conlan Classic golf tournament that benefits the Heritage Valley Health System for residents in western Pa., eastern Ohio and panhandle of West Virginia. Conlan has volunteered with Toys For Tots in Allegheny County (Pa.) and has supported the Shane ConlanScholarship Fund at Frewsberg Central (N.Y.) High School with his time and financially. He also donated the $25,000 he won as the 1987 Old Spice/NFL Rookie of the Year Award to the Retired New York State Troopers' Helping Hands non-profit organization that assists terminally ill children and their families.
Conlan earned his Penn State degree in administration of justice in 1986. He is the Vice President of Corporate Partnerships with the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League. He and his wife, Caroline, have four children - Patrick, Christopher, Mary Katherine and Daniel.
Other members of the Penn State program enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, located in Atlanta, include ex-coaches Joe Paterno, Hugo Bezdek, Rip Engle, Dick Harlow and Bob Higgins along with former players John Cappelletti, Keith Dorney, Jack Ham, Glenn Killinger, Ted Kwalick, Rich Lucas, Pete Mauthe, Shorty Miller, Lydell Mitchell, Dennis Onkotz, Mike Reid, Glenn Ressler, Dave Robinson, Steve Suhey, Dexter Very, Harry Wilsonand Warner.
The other members of the incoming Hall of Fame class include: Dre Bly, North Carolina; Tony Boselli, USC; Dave Butz, Purdue; Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech; John Huard, Maine; Darrin Nelson, Stanford; Willie Roaf, Louisiana Tech; John Sciarra, UCLA; Sterling Sharpe, South Carolina; Leonard Smith, McNeese State; Derrick Thomas, Alabama; LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU; Wesley Walls, Mississippi.
Coaches Mike Bellotti (Chico State and Oregon) and Jerry Moore North Texas, Texas Tech, Appalachian State) also will enter the Hall of Fame with the Class of 2014.
Additional information on the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014 can be found at www.footballfoundation.com.