Linebacker Tourney: Ham vs. O'Neil

The second round of our tournament continues with Jack Ham taking on Ed O'Neil. Will form hold as it did in the first round, where all of the higher seeds won? Or will the quarterfinals feature their share of upsets? You make the call by voting.

Welcome to the quarterfinals of the Linebacker U. Tournament, where we endeavor (with your help) to name the best linebacker of the Joe Paterno era at Penn State.

We continue the second round with all-time great Jack Ham taking on early 1970s star Ed O'Neil.

The seedings and most of the background information for this tournament came from Penn State sports historian Lou Prato, who wrote the “Penn State Football Encyclopedia.” The FOS staff added to the player bios where needed.

You can cast your vote for the competition in the poll on our Audibles Message Board. Click here to find it.

Here are the participants in this showdown:

NO. 1 JACK HAM (1968-70)

Ham received Penn State's last available scholarship in 1967 and parlayed it into a Hall of Fame career at the college and NFL levels. He teamed with Dennis Onkotz from 1968-69 to form the best linebacker tandem in the nation. Both players were light, agile and fast. Ham had three blocked punts in 1968 and a school-record four in his career. As a senior captain in 1970, he had 92 tackles and four interceptions. In a 41-13 loss at Colorado that ended PSU's 31-game unbeaten streak, Ham went down fighting, making 15 solo stops and recovering two fumbles. He is considered the most well-rounded linebacker in school history, with an ability to stuff the run, cover receivers and pressure the quarterback. A second-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 1971, Ham was an All-Pro for nine straight seasons and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1975. He helped the Steelers win four Super Bowls.

NO. 8 ED O'NEIL (1971-73)

O'Neil enjoyed a great career during a heyday for Penn State linebackers. After starting at safety in 1971 (along with John Cappelletti), he moved to linebacker for his junior season ('72) and promptly led the team with 126 tackles. While he did not post such gaudy numbers as a senior, his knack for making clutch plays for a team that went 12-0 allowed him to capture All-America honors. O'Neil was the first Joe Paterno linebacker to be drafted in the first round, going to Detroit in 1974. He played six-plus seasons with the Lions before moving on to Green Bay in 1980 and ending his career.


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