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.
30. Glenn Killinger, quarterback (1918-21)
Glen Killinger has a story that makes the lead character from the movie Rudy look like a 4-star recruit. He started one game as a senior in high school, according to author and historian Todd M. Mealy. He wasn’t going to play football in college, instead deciding to focus on baseball and basketball.
In large part because much of the football team enlisted in the military during World War I, Killinger ended up on the gridiron in 1918 and ’19 but as a reserve. Then he had a growth spurt, and became the starting quarterback for two undefeated teams in 1920 and ‘921.
Killinger went from starting one game at Harrisburg Tech in 1916 to being a first-team All-America selection at Penn State in 1921. He also played baseball and basketball.
After playing for the Nittany Lions, he played professional football and baseball (and signed a contract with a professional basketball team), and spent time as Penn State’s athletic director, baseball coach and assistant football coach.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
29. John Hufnagel, quarterback (1969-72)
Penn State had back-to-back undefeated seasons just before Josh Hufnagel became the starting quarterback in 1970. The Nittany Lions lost three times during his sophomore year, but went 21-3 in his final two seasons.
Hufnagel finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting as a senior in 1972 and was a consensus All-America selection. He threw for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, and scored 6 more on the ground.
For his career, Hufnagel averaged 8.7 yards per passing attempt, second in school history behind Trace McSorley. In 1972, Hufnagel averaged 17.7 yards per completion, more than 3 yards better than McSorley did in 2016 in Joe Moorhead’s much-lauded downfield passing attack.
He spent three years in the NFL and then 12 in the CFL as a player before a long coaching career. Hufnagel has won the Grey Cup four times — once as a player, once as Doug Flutie’s offensive coordinator and twice as a coach for the Calgary Stampeders. He’s now the president and general manager of the Stampeders.
28. Pete Mauthe, fullback/kicker (1909-12)
Pete Mauthe kicked a field goal to beat Pitt 3-0 and finish an undefeated season in 1911, but he really became a star the following year. Penn State went 8-0 in 1912, and might have a decent claim to a national championship if there was one.
He scored 119 points, which included 11 touchdowns. Three of those points came on a 52-yard field goal against Pitt. The Nittany Lions outscored their opponents 285-6 that season.
There were a few other undefeated teams that year, and college football barely resembled the organized empire that it is today. Carlisle played 14 games, and had a halfback named Jim Thorpe who scored 29 touchdowns.
Thorpe’s team went 12-1-1, and their loss was to Penn, a team Mauthe’s Nittany Lions beat 14-0. Mauthe was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.
27. Todd Blackledge, quarterback (1979-82)
Todd Blackledge went 31-5 as a starter for Penn State. The Nittany Lions went 10-2 in 1980 and 1981 with Blackledge and Curt Warner in the backfield, including one of the most famous wins in program history.
They went to Pitt Stadium on the last weekend of the regular season and scored 48 straight points to knock off the No. 1-ranked Panthers, 48-14. Then they beat No. 8 Southern California in the Fiesta Bowl to set the stage for the 1982 season.
Blackledge finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting that year and won the Davey O’Brien Award as the top quarterback in college football. He threw for 2,218 yards and 22 touchdowns to get Penn State into the Sugar Bowl, and his 47-yard touchdown pass to Greg Garrity was the decisive score in a 27-23 win against top-ranked Georgia that delivered Penn State its first national championship.
Blackledge has been a college football analyst for ABC, CBS and ESPN for more than two decades and is a high school basketball coach in Ohio.
26. Steve Wisniewski, guard (1985-88)
Steve Wisniewski was a standout sophomore when Penn State won its second national title in 1986, and he was just getting started. He became an All-America guard in 1987 and 1988.
Blair Thomas ran for more than 1,400 yards in 1987 with Wisniewski anchoring the offensive line. Thomas was hurt the following year, but future NFL running backs Gary Brown and Leroy Thompson combined for more than 1,000 yards.
Wisniewski was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the 1989 NFL Draft, but was traded to the Oakland Raiders in a deal that included a pick that became Darryl “Moose” Johnston.
While he didn’t get to play with those Super Bowl-winning Cowboys teams, he did become one of the best linemen of the 1990s for the Raiders. He went to the Pro Bowl eight times in 13 seasons.
25. Dave Robinson, tight end/defensive end (1959-62)
David Robinson was one of the last great two-way players in program history. He was an All-America selection as a senior in 1962 and the No. 14 pick in the 1963 NFL Draft.
As an end on the offensive side of the ball, the 6-foot-3 Robinson was tough to cover. He had 17 catches, which was second on the team. He was a star on the other side of the ball.
Robinson was named the top lineman in college football by one media organization and the top player in the country by another. After he joined the Green Bay Packers, Robinson became one of the top defensive players in the NFL in the 1960s. The Packers won three championships, including Super Bowl I and II, and he made the Pro Bowl three times.
He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
24. Keith Dorney, tackle (1975-78)
Keith Dorney is one of the best offensive linemen in the history of the program, and became a two-time All-America selection for the Nittany Lions. He was a consensus All-America choice as a senior in 1978.
The Nittany Lions went 22-2 in Dorney’s All-America seasons, finishing fifth and third in the final Associated Press polls. They were a goal-line stand by Alabama in the Sugar Bowl away from an undefeated season and possibly a national championship in 1978.
They didn’t have anyone rush for more than 720 yards either year, but a varied running attack plus a Heisman contender at quarterback (more on him in a minute) produced one of the best offenses in the nation. Having Dorney up front helped, as well.
He was the No. 10 pick in the 1979 NFL Draft, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
23. Courtney Brown, defensive end (1996-99)
Courtney Brown was a menace for quarterbacks in the late 1990s. He was a two-time All-Big Ten selection, and the league’s defensive player of the year in 1999.
Nationally, Brown was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, the Bednarik Award and the Lombardi Award. His teammate, LaVar Arrington, won the Bednarik, while Virginia Tech’s Corey Moore took home the other two. Brown was also a consensus All-America selection.
He set a then-NCAA record with 33 career sacks. That is the Penn State record, as is his 70 tackles for loss.
Maybe someone will pass him in sacks, but that tackles for loss mark might be untouchable. Brandon Short is second in program history with 51.
Anyone who gets close enough after three seasons to challenge the mark will probably leave early for the NFL, because racking up 50-ish tackles for loss in three seasons is a good way to become a great NFL prospect. Brown could have left after his junior season, but returned and became the No. 1 pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.
22. Bob Higgins, end (1914-16, 1919)
Bob Higgins was an All-America end for Penn State in 1915, and then left after his junior season to serve in the military in World War I. He returned to captain the Nittany Lions in 1919, and became a consensus All-America selection.
He was Penn State’s best punter, but also its best cover man. His skills as an end were also put to good use against Pop Warner’s Pitt team in the season finale.
Higgins’ catch-and-run on a fake punt led to an incredible touchdown in a 20-0 upset that was either 85 or 92 yards, depending on the source. The Panthers were 44-3-1 since 1914 coming into that game.
Higgins also lettered in baseball, boxing and wrestling at Penn State. Later, he became the program’s head coach for 19 seasons, guiding the Nittany Lions to a 97 wins, and a trip to the Cotton Bowl in 1947. That was the second bowl game in school history.
He was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.
21. Chuck Fusina, quarterback (1975-78)
Chuck Fusina went 29-3 as a starter for Penn State and might have been inches away for a national championship. Or at least a share of one, after a 14-7 loss to No. 2 Alabama was punctuated by a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter by the Crimson Tide.
After taking over the starting job as a sophomore in 1976, Fusina threw for 5,382 yards and 37 touchdowns. He’s still sixth in career yards in school history.
Fusina won the Maxwell Award and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Oklahoma running back Billy Sims, while earning consensus All-America honors in 1978. Dorney, who blocked for Fusina at Penn State, ended up being one of Sims’ top blockers in the NFL.
While Fusina’s NFL career didn’t amount to much, he found great success in the USFL. Playing for Jim Mora, Fusina reached the championship game in 1983 and then won back-to-back league titles the following two seasons before the league disbanded.