Tracking Penn State Success at the Next Level

Story posted October 14, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by John Bridgens

In what has become tradition in college football, Penn State will host its annual homecoming game this Saturday as the Purdue Boilermakers visit Happy Valley. Homecoming is a chance for former players and alumni to come back to Penn State and reminisce about their college days.

Homecoming also gives college football fans a chance to think about the past and about their favorite players over the years. With the recent success of Penn State alumni currently in the NFL, it seems appropriate to focus on some of the great players on recent Penn State teams and how they are performing in the NFL.

Besides the Detroit Lions, the Buffalo Bills have been the biggest surprise in the NFL this season. At the heart of the Bills resurgence is veteran safety Bryan Scott. Scott has had an up and down career but seems to have found a home in Buffalo. Scott’s veteran leadership has helped guide the Bills to a 4-1 record and a tie for first in the AFC East along with the New England Patriots.

Another former defensive back at Penn State is just starting to see his NFL career turn around. In the early part of the season, Justin King’s playing time has increased considerably. Prior to this season, King had only registered 55 career tackles. In just four games this season, he has 24 tackles, a fumble recovery, a sack, and an interception. If his numbers continue to improve, a starting spot may be in line for the former Penn State standout.

One of the best quarterbacks to play at Penn State was Michael Robinson, but he no longer throws passes but rather catches them for his current team. When Robinson was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 4th round of the 2006 NFL draft, Robinson was immediately converted to running back. Robinson has had a solid career contributing mostly as a backup running back and special teams player in the league. Currently, Robinson has earned a starting spot at fullback for the Seattle Seahawks.  

Penn State currently has three former offensive linemen starting in the NFL. Kareem McKenzie is in his 11th year with the New York Giants, Levi Brown is in his 5th year with the Arizona Cardinals, and Stefen Wisniewski is a rookie for the Oakland Raiders. Wisniewski is off to a fast start for his new team blocking for NFL leading rusher Darren McFadden, while veterans McKenzie and Brown continue to be the anchors on their respective offensive lines.

Quite possibly Penn State’s most successful current NFL player is Chicago Bears’ kicker, Robbie Gould. Gould is currently the third most accurate kicker in NFL history. So far this season, Gould is ten for ten with his longest kick of 49 yards. Gould is on pace to make his second career pro bowl this season.

Linebacker U is alive and well in the NFL right now with several former Penn State linebackers playing at a high level. Six of those linebackers are starting in the league; Sean Lee for the Dallas Cowboys, Navorro Bowman for the San Francisco 49ers, Paul Posluszny for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dan Connor for the Carolina Panthers, Cameron Wake for the Miami Dolphins, and Tamba Hali for the Kansas City Chiefs. Hali was a defensive end at Penn State but has been converted to a 3-4 linebacker in the NFL.

Wake and Hali both had break out 2010 seasons where they were both selected to the AFC Pro Bowl team. The breakout player this season has been Sean Lee. In his second season in the league, Lee has become one of the best defenders for the Cowboys. Lee’s play in the early part of the season has earned him NFC Defensive Player of the month for September.

Navorro Bowman has also been a pleasant surprise for the 49ers. Bowman was selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft. He started two games last year and has started all five games this year. He leads the team with 42 tackles and has helped the 49ers exceed expectations with a 4-1 mark so far this season.

This Saturday, take the time to think about the former great players who wore the blue and white. Then, on Sunday, proudly watch our former Nittany Lion standouts play at a high level in the NFL.

John Bridgens is a sophomore majoring in Communications. To contact him, e-mail: jfb5166@psu.edu.