Round 1: Onkotz vs. Graham

Welcome to the opening round of the Penn State Linebacker U. Tournament, where we take the 16 greatest 'backers of the Joe Paterno era and have them square off in one-on-one battles (elections). We continue the tournament with Hall of Famer Dennis Onkotz and mid-1980s stalwart Don Graham.

The following profiles are provided by FOS and (where applicable) the Penn State Football Encyclopedia, which was written by PSU sports historian Lou Prato. Prato also handled the seeding for this tournament.

NO. 2 DENNIS ONKOTZ (1967-69)

Say what you will about Jack Ham, but this is the man who began Penn State's tradition of “Linebacker U.” A tremendous scholar/athlete who carried a 3.5 GPA in biophysics, Onkotz was a consensus All-American as a junior and senior and the Lions did not lose a game in that stretch. He led the team in tackles three straight seasons. A prototype of the modern-day freak athlete at linebacker, Onkotz had 11 career interceptions and returned a school record three of them for touchdowns. Amazingly, he ranks among Penn State's all-time leaders in punt return yardage (619) and his 13.2-yard career average was better than figures posted by O.J. McDuffie and Bobby Engram. He also checks in at No. 3 on the career tackles list (287). Onkotz was a third-round pick of the New York Jets in 1970 and played one year before sustaining a career-ending broken leg.

NO. 15 DON GRAHAM (1983-86)

A key figure on the outstanding Penn State defense in 1985 and 1986, Graham was at his best on the biggest stages. In '86, he had a pair of sacks for minus-26 yards in a win at Alabama and three sacks for minus-17 yards in a win at Notre Dame. He also had a key sack in the Fiesta Bowl win over Miami in which PSU captured its second national title. Graham led Penn State in sacks as a junior (seven) and senior (nine), which is saying something because he played alongside the great Shane Conlan and standout defensive end Bob White. Played in the NFL with Tampa Bay and Buffalo before retiring in 1989.

Cast Your Vote on the Audibles Board.

See the Entire Bracket.


Fight On State Top Stories