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Todd McShay breaks down the recent draft trends at linebacker, including which schools produce the best players and which have turned out the most busts. To see this and more, become an ESPN Insider.
The best writers in Hollywood couldn't create a more iconic outside linebacker than Jack Ham. A native of Johnston, Pa., Ham started for three years at Penn State, where he was named a first-team All-American in 1970 before the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in the second round (34th overall) of the 1971 draft. Ham went on to earn eight consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl and play a big role in the Steelers' first four Super Bowl wins. He often is viewed as the prototypical outside linebacker because of his quickness, strength and, arguably most importantly, ability to make big plays. Simply put, Ham was the founding father of what college football fans have come to know as "Linebacker U."
While several players have followed in Ham's footsteps at Penn State, none has made the same kind of mark in the NFL. So the title "Linebacker U" doesn't carry a whole lot of weight in NFL scouting circles.
Sure, the Nittany Lions have produced a handful of solid contributors since Ham. Shane Conlan, whom the Buffalo Bills selected in the first round (eighth overall) of the 1987 draft, was a defensive rookie of the year and earned three trips to the Pro Bowl. The Bills also took Paul Posluszny in the second round (34th) of the 2007 draft, and he bounced back from a season-ending arm injury during his rookie year to lead the team in tackles this past season.