Editor’s note: In June 1917, the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives invited Michigan back into the league, increasing membership to 10 and eventually spawning the iconic “Big Ten” nickname. One hundred years later, Land of 10 will spend the summer looking at the history of America’s legendary conference and its teams.
50. Sean Lee, linebacker (2005-09)
There aren’t many football players who get better at each level, but Sean Lee might be remembered as one. He was a 3-star recruit in high school. He earned All-Big Ten honors twice in college. Now he’s a two-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL.
Lee was a three-year starter and a two-time captain for the Nittany Lions. He had 138 tackles as a junior in 2007, but missed the 2008 season with a knee injury. He was on pace for another 100-plus tackle season when another knee injury cut his senior season short after 10 games.
There was a third ACL injury in 2014, but he’s rebounded with back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons for the Dallas Cowboys.
49. Mike Munchak, offensive line (1978-81)
It wasn’t that long ago that Mike Munchak almost became the man who replaced Bill O’Brien has Penn State’s head coach. He got an interview, but James Franklin got the job. That has worked out pretty well.
Munchak was a great offensive lineman for the Nittany Lions. He missed the 1980 season because of an injury, but started in 1979 and was an All-America selection in 1981.
He became a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with the Houston Oilers after being picked No. 8 in the 1982 NFL Draft. Munchak stuck with the organization after he played, and through the move to Tennessee. He eventually became the Titans coach for three seasons. He’s currently the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach, and seems likely to get another shot as a head coach, either at the college or pro level.
48. Kyle Brady, tight end (1991-94)
Kyle Brady was a formidable physical specimen at tight end long before it was commonplace to have an athletic guy who was 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds play the position. He had 76 catches in his four seasons with the Nittany Lions, second only to Ted Kwalick among tight ends at Penn State.
He had 27 catches and averaged 13.5 yards per reception in 1994 when Penn State went 12-0 and finished No. 2 in the country. Brady also was a great blocker, which helped power Ki-Jana Carter to a second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.
The New York Jets drafted Brady at No. 9 in the 1995 draft, giving Penn State three top-10 picks that day. While Jets fans were disappointed in his tenure, especially considering everyone wanted them to take Warren Sapp, Brady went on to have a 13-year career, including five straight seasons with at least 30 catches.
47. Franco Harris, running back (1968-71)
Franco Harris never ran for 700 yards in a season at Penn State. He never ran for fewer than 600 in his 12 seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Penn State had one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, but it also had two other great college backs in 1969 (Charlie Pittman and Lydell Mitchell) and Mitchell in 1970 and 1971. Mitchell and Harris split carries in 1970, but it was Mitchell who had a monster senior season with 1,567 yards and 26 touchdowns. Harris provided plenty of lead blocks.
Still, Harris finished his career with 25 touchdowns, which is 13th in program history. He was the No. 13 pick in the 1972 NFL Draft, 35 spots ahead of Mitchell. Harris is the only player from that draft class in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
46. O.J. McDuffie, wide receiver (1988-92)
O.J. McDuffie didn’t win a national championship or play in the Big Ten, but he was the best player of the transition era for the Nittany Lions. He had the best season in program history by a wide receiver in 1992, the last season before Penn State became an official member of the Big Ten in football.
The Nittany Lions went 7-5 in 1992, but the foundation players of the 1994 team were starting to work their way into the lineup, and the team lost three times to ranked opponents by a field goal or less. McDuffie had 63 catches for 977 yards. Add his totals from the Blockbuster Bowl and he finished with 69 for 1,088. He was a consensus All-America choice.
McDuffie finished his Penn State career with 125 catches for 1,988 yards, which were program records 25 years ago. He also had more than 1,000 punt return yards and 20 total touchdowns. The Miami Dolphins made him a first-round pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, and he had more than 5,000 receiving yards and 8,000 total yards in an eight-year pro career.
45. D.J. Dozier, running back (1983-86)
D.J. Dozier was recruited while Penn State was winning its first national championship. He helped deliver its second. He also led the Nittany Lions in rushing four straight seasons.
Dozier had his highest rushing total as a freshman in 1983, collecting 1,002 yards on 174 carries. Penn State lost nine times in his first two seasons, but only once in his final two — in the Orange Bowl to Oklahoma, which prevented back-to-back national titles.
Dozier was an incredible athlete, and briefly played Major League Baseball. He had 811 rushing yards, 287 through the air (on a team-high 26 receptions) and 12 touchdowns as a senior. He was a consensus All-America choice and finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy voting, despite two teammates — including sophomore Blair Thomas — rushing for more than 500 yards.
The Minnesota Vikings made him a first-round pick in the 1987 NFL Draft and he spent five seasons in the league before giving baseball a try. Dozier is sixth in Penn State history with 3,227 rushing yards, and he’s one of two players to score a national championship-winning touchdown for the Nittany Lions.
44. Kenny Jackson, wide receiver (1980-83)
Kenny Jackson was an Associated Press All-America choice as a junior in 1982. He caught 41 passes for 697 yards and 7 touchdowns to help the Nittany Lions win their first national championship.
He earned a second-team All-America nod as a senior. Those Penn State teams obviously didn’t throw as much as the teams in the 21st century, but Jackson is still second in program history with 25 touchdown receptions.
When he left for the NFL as the No. 4 pick in the 1984 draft, Jackson had the most career receiving yards (2,006). He’s now eighth. Jackson spent eight seasons in the NFL, and later spent eight seasons (1993-2000) as Penn State’s wide receivers coach.
Nearly one out of every four times he caught the ball (109 receptions) in college, Jackson scored.
43. Mike Michalske, offensive line/fullback (1923-25)
Mike Michalske moved between guard and fullback during his career at Penn State. He eventually became a great NFL offensive lineman and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964. That was the second year players were inducted.
While at Penn State, his move to fullback in 1925 probably was because of the team’s lack of offensive punch. The Nittany Lions scored 67 points in nine games, which was 92nd among 104 college teams that season.
Michalske did score both touchdowns in a 13-7 win against Michigan State, and he earned All-America honors. He went on to earn seven All-Pro selections and three championships with the Green Bay Packers.
42. Allen Robinson, wide receiver (2011-13)
There were 974 players rated ahead of Allen Robinson when he was a senior in high school, including three wide receivers in his home state of Michigan. It didn’t take long before everyone knew Robinson was a late bloomer.
He set a program record with 77 catches as a sophomore in 2012. He bested that with 97 as a junior in 2013, and added a program-best 1,432 yards.
Robinson is second in career catches at Penn State, and third in career yards for a receiver despite only being a significant contributor for two seasons. DaeSean Hamilton will have a chance to pass him in both categories in 2017, but Robinson’s two-year run of excellence is up there with anyone in Big Ten history at the position.
He was a two-time Big Ten wideout of the year and a consensus All-American in 2013.
41. Brandon Short, linebacker (1995-99)
Brandon Short was the best recruit in Pennsylvania and one of the 25 best in the nation, according to USA Today, as a senior at McKeesport High School. He spent four seasons as a starter for the Nittany Lions.
He teamed with LaVar Arrington and Courtney Brown to front one of the best defenses in the nation for two seasons. Short was a two-time captain, but he also was considered the second-best linebacker on his team.
Both Arrington and Short were nominated for the Butkus Award, but Arrington won. Brown and Arrington were the first two picks in the 2000 NFL Draft, while Short waiting until the fourth round. That’s not to diminish his career — Short was a fantastic player.
He was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and an All-American in 1999. Short also had a longer NFL career than his two havoc-wreaking friends on those Penn State defenses.