Conlan among new Hall inductees

From Mirror, wire reports

Former Penn State All-America linebacker Shane Conlan, the leader of the Nittany Lions’ 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.

“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,” Conlan said. “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 coming to Penn State, where he was instrumental in the Nittany Lions posting a 23-1 mark his last two seasons.

“Shane was one of the greatest linebackers in our long and outstanding Linebacker U. 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,” Nittany Lion coach James Franklin said. “Shane is one of the primary reasons why so many people know about the unrivaled tradition of Linebacker U. 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.”

The late great Derrick Thomas grew up in Miami and played his entire 11-year NFL career in Kansas City.

In between he spent four years at the University of Alabama, dominating on defense as few players have ever done in college football history.

“Alabama meant everything to Derrick, even after he moved to Kansas City,” Edith Morgan, Thomas’ mother, said Thursday. “He still had his Alabama [license] plates and went back to Alabama whenever he could.”

Thomas and Conlan highlight a class of 14 players that also includes LaDainian Tomlinson, Sterling Sharpe and Tony Boselli.

The new College Football Hall of Fame class announced by the National Football Foundation at a news conference in Dallas also featured a couple of Heisman Trophy finalists and two of the best offensive linemen of the early 1990s.

Tomlinson led the nation in rushing in his final two seasons at TCU (1999 and 2000) and finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 2000.

“This is a great honor,” said Tomlinson, who attended the news conference. “As a kid you never set out to land in the College Football Hall of Fame. You’re just playing with your buddies, having fun, playing a game that you love.”

Tomlinson thanked TCU for giving him a chance.

“TCU was the first school to offer me a scholarship,” he said. “I didn’t have many, but they believed in me.”

Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton was the Heisman runner-up to Ron Dayne in 1999.

Boselli played tackle at Southern California from 1991-94 and was the second overall draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995. Louisiana Tech tackle Willie Roaf was a finalist for the Outland Trophy as a senior in 1992 before going on to a long NFL career.

Sterling Sharpe held virtually every receiving record when he left South Carolina after the 1987 season.

The rest of the players who will be inducted during the National Football Foundation’s awards banquet in December are: North Carolina cornerback Dre Bly; Purdue defensive tackle Dave Butz; Maine linebacker John Huard; Stanford running back Darrin Nelson; UCLA quarterback John Sciarra; McNeese State defensive back Leonard Smith; and Mississippi tight end Wesley Walls.

The two coaches who will join the Hall of Fame are Mike Bellotti, who led Oregon from 1995-2008, and Jerry Moore, who coached at North Texas, Texas Tech and Appalachian State.

Conlan, who was also in attendance, helped lead Penn State and coach Joe Paterno to the 1986 national championship.

“It’s been a tough time the last few years at Penn State,” he said, fighting back tears as he thanked the late Paterno. “We miss you, Coach,” he said.

“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.”