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Dec. 6, 2007
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Penn State All-America linebacker Dan Connor has captured the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player, giving "Linebacker U" its third consecutive recipient of the honor.
Connor was announced as the winner of the Bednarik Award tonight during the nationally televised Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards program at the Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney's Boardwalk.
"The reason I went to Penn State is because it's Linebacker U," Connor told ESPN's Chris Fowler at the awards show. "To be even mentioned in the same breath as Jack Ham, Paul Posluszny, Shane Conlan, that's an unbelievable honor.
"Seeing Paul win this award gave me something to shoot for," Connor said to the media covering the event. "Meeting the other guys up for the award and talking to them has been great. It's a great honor. I'm hoping Sean (Lee) can keep it going next year because he's an unbelievable player."
Also a finalist for the Butkus Award, which will be presented Friday night in Orlando, Connor becomes the fourth Nittany Lion to win the Bednarik Award. He joins fellow linebackers LaVar Arrington (1999) and Paul Posluszny (2005 and '06) as recipients of the award, which has been presented by the Maxwell Football Club since 1995 in honor of former Philadelphia Eagles standout Chuck Bednarik.
The Bednarik Award will formally be presented to Connor at the Maxwell Football Club's Awards Dinner on March 7, 2008 at Harrah's Entertainment Complex in Atlantic City, N.J.
Connor also was selected to the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-America Team, the nation's oldest All-America team. He becomes Penn State's 91st first team All-America selection and the 14th Nittany Lion to earn first team All-America honors twice. He earned first team All-America honors from The Sporting News in 2006.
Connor becomes the 74th first-team All-America selection under Coach Joe Paterno. At least one Nittany Lion has been named an All-American in 37 of the 42 seasons Paterno has served as head coach.
The Nittany Lions' career tackle leader with 410 hits, also was one of three finalists for the 2006 Bednarik Award. Last year, "Linebacker U" became the first school to have a pair of Bednarik Award finalists.
A native of Wallingford, Pa., Connor previously was named a finalist for the 2007 Butkus Award, presented to the nation's top linebacker, and a semifinalist for Walter Camp Player of the Year. He also was a semifinalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award and a candidate for the Nagurski Trophy and Lott Trophy.
The former Strath Haven High School All-American leads Penn State and the Big Ten with 136 tackles (66 solo) for an 11.3 per game average that ranks No. 7 in the nation. Connor's 136 tackles are No. 4 on the school season list He is second on the team and 10th in the Big Ten with 14.0 TFL for minus-61 yards. Connor is second on the team and 10th in the conference with 6.5 sacks (minus-50). He also has one interception, one fumble recovery and six pass break-ups.
Connor has 20 career double-digit tackle games, including eight this season. He became the Nittany Lions' career tackle leader against Purdue on Nov. 3, passing Posluszny, who made 372 stops from 2003-06.
Connor made a career-high 18 tackles against Ohio State on Oct. 27, the most by a Nittany Lion since Posluszny had 22 hits at Northwestern in 2005. He also grabbed an interception in Penn State territory and made one tackle for loss vs. the Buckeyes.
Playing near his hometown on Nov. 10, Connor tied his career-high with 18 stops in Penn State's 31-0 win over Temple. He recorded 10 tackles in the first quarter alone and had 1.5 sacks to earn Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time this season. The Big Ten honor was the fourth of Connor's career. He also earned both honors after recording 12 hits in Penn State's 31-10 win over Notre Dame on Sept. 8.
Coach Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions completed the regular season with an 8-4 record and will face Texas A&M (7-5) in the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Nittany Lions' second Alamo Bowl appearance is Saturday, Dec. 29 at 8:00 p.m. ET in the The Alamodome in San Antonio. Penn State will be playing in its 34th bowl game under Paterno, who is the all-time leader in bowl appearances and wins (22-10-1 record).