As a lifelong Penn State fan, Penn State grad and current Penn State season-ticket holder, I've naturally grown accustomed to the Nittany Lions having incredibly strong linebacking corps. Two in particular, the 1999 team and the 2005 team, stand out for me.
In '99, it was Brandon Short and LaVar Arrington that got all the acclaim, and rightfully so.
Short was the most fundamentally sound player on that defense and simply one of the best backers in the country, and Arrington was nothing short of a freak, giving visions of the next Lawrence Taylor. Arrington won the Butkus Award and was drafted third overall by the Redskins. He made three straight Pro Bowls from 2001-2003, playing six season in Washington and one for the Giants before retiring. Short, who was my favorite player perhaps ever at Penn State, was drafted by the Giants, playing seven season (5 with New York and two with Carolina).
But the third linebacker of the bunch, Mac Morrison, was no slouch either. Named second-team All-Big Ten in 1998 and 1999, Morrison showed he wasn't simply another guy to plug in with two studs. He was a damn fine player in his own right, getting invited to training camp with the Seahawks.
Unfortunately for Morrison, who was having a great camp, he suffered a career-ending injury. But Morrison was always a favorite of mine, because he simply never made mistakes. With him, Arrington and Short, Penn State proudly upheld its reputation as Linebacker U, even if that '99 team that was rated preseason No. 1 underachieved.
Fast-forward to my senior year at Penn State. That season, Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor came in getting all the pub, and rightfully so.
Posluszny was the undisputed leader of the defense, improving on his breakout season of 2004 by dominating everyone in his wake. He won the Butkus and Bednarik Awards for the best linebacker and best defensive player in the nation, respectively. Meanwhile Connor, the sophomore from Strath Haven, came in as a huge recruit the year before and exploded in 2005. This dynamic duo helped lead Penn State to the Big Ten title with the help of Michael Robinson and Tony Hunt on the offensive side of the ball, restoring the glory to Penn State football. Poz went on the next season to become the all-time leading tackler in Penn State history and was drafted 34th overall by the Bills, where he starts at linebacker. Connor followed that up by breaking Poz's record in 2007 and was drafted by Carolina last season, where he's fighting for a starting spot.
The third guy in that 2005 linebacking corps was one Tim Shaw, a guy who eventually was moved to defensive end as Sean Lee's talents supplanted him. Shaw was a good college player, not a standout by any means, but solid. I never foresaw him as a pro player and never really paid much attention to his career once he graduated from Penn State. That is, until last night.
As I'm watching the Eagles play the Jaguars, I see this guy, No. 57 on the Jaguars, make a tackle. He's white and playing linebacker. I immediately ask my roommate, "Is that Tim Shaw? From Penn State?" No one knew for sure, so I checked it out. Sure enough, that's the same Tim Shaw who roamed the same defense in State College as Dan Connor and Paul Posluszny. Who knew? Turns out, Shaw played in 14 games for the Panthers in 2007 and three last year for Jacksonville, where he is again this season.
I had no idea he was even in the pros last year, let alone still out there doing his thing. Just goes to show you how much talent Penn State produces at the position. Having three linebackers (even though Shaw played defensive end his senior year, still) from the same linebacking corps in the pros is impressive. Good to see Shaw's still alive.
I was hoping to have another potential all-NFL linebacking corps this season for Penn State. Sean Lee, who may very well break Connor's tackles record, and Navorro Bowman are all but assured to be playing on Sundays, and both are in the running for All-American/Butkus status. And I was hoping Mike Mauti, a talented sophomore who showed a lot of promise last season, would make a strong push to the starting lineup and maybe show some pro potential. Then he went and tore his ACL, dashing my hopes and dreams. That means we're stuck with shitty Josh Hull, who most assuredly won't be getting a third white linebacker shout-out years from now the way Tim Shaw and Mac Morrison just did.
Because Josh Hull will never set foot on an NFL field. Because he sucks. At least I get to watch Bowman terrorize the Big Ten this season.
I can't wait for next weekend.