LBU Tournament: Ham vs. Conlan

Welcome to the semifinals of the FightOnState.com 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). In this showdown, No. 1 seed Jack Ham takes on No. 4 seed Shane Conlan.

Late 1960s star Dennis Onkotz edged 1990s standout LaVar Arrington (53.2 percent to 46.8 percent) in the first semifinal, striking down accusations that the FOS community has a bias toward Nittany Lions of the past decade. Now Ham and Conlan, two more All-Americans and longtime NFL stars, have at it for a spot in the final.

Voting for the final will be held in the week leading up to Penn State's season opener with Akron.

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. 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. 4 SHANE CONLAN (1983-86)

Conlan posted great numbers in his career (274 tackles, including a school-record 186 solos) and was at his best in the biggest games. In the '85 national championship game against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, Conlan spied Sooner QB Jamelle Holieway, limiting the explosive runner to one yard rushing. In the 1986 title tilt vs. Miami in the Fiesta Bowl, Conlan brushed aside a first-quarter knee injury and third-quarter ankle injury to post a monster game (eight tackles, two interceptions). He returned one pick 38 yards to set up D.J. Dozier's game-winning touchdown. A first-round draft pick by Buffalo in 1987, Conlan spent six season with the Bills, making the Pro Bowl and three Super Bowls, before finishing his pro career by playing two seasons for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams.

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