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The Pennsylvania State University
Paul Posluszny will be honored by the Maxwell Club as the winner of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the outstanding defensive player in college football for the 2006 season.
Posluszny also won the Bednarik Award last season which makes him only the second player – Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern was the other in 1995-96– to earn this prestigious honor more than once.
The 6-2, 235-pound linebacker led Penn State with 108 tackles, seven for losses, and he set the Nittany Lions career record for tackles with 364. The record was previously held by Greg Buttle, who earned All-America honors at Penn State (1974-75) and went on to play nine seasons with the New York Jets.
Posluszny overcame a serious knee injury suffered in last year’s Orange Bowl to have a brilliant senior season. He also changed positions, moving from outside linebacker to middle linebacker, but he led a Penn State defense that ranked fifth nationally in points allowed and shut down Tennessee in a 20-10 win at the Outback Bowl.
“I’m sure if (Paul) had his druthers, he’d have loved to have played outside again,” said Jack Ham, the former Penn State star and Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer. “The keys are all different (in the middle). You have to think longer before you react to realizing what you’re supposed to do…But (Paul) really came on.”
Ham is considered by many Penn State fans the greatest linebacker in the school’s history, but he feels the honor belongs to Posluszny. “I rate him No. 1,” Ham said. “There is not a weakness in his game. He’ll be a No. 1 pick, an outstanding pro.”
Posluszny’s attitude has always been the same: It’s not about him, it’s about the team. In his mind, it was a successful season because the Nittany Lions finished 9-4 and brought head coach Joe Paterno his 22nd bowl victory.
“Football is the ultimate team game,” Posluszny told Sam Ross, Jr., of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “For one person to do well, the 10 other guys on the field have to be doing well also. It’s hard to single out one guy and say he’s a great player. If you’re a great player, you play on a great team.”
Posluszny was a star running back and linebacker at Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, Pa. He enrolled at Penn State and broke into the starting lineup as a freshman. In 2005, he became the first junior elected team captain since Mike Reid and Steve Smear shared the honor in 1968. Posluszny earned the respect of his teammates with his work ethic as well as his talent.
“He is the hardest worker on the team,” said fellow linebacker Dan Connor. “Being the hardest worker and the best player is something you don’t see all the time. Sometimes it comes so naturally to great players that they don’t feel like they have to work hard. But he works like he’s the lowest guy on the food chain trying to work his way up.”
“He’s a great practice player,” Paterno told Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s the first one out on the field for practice. He’s out there working on shuffling, drops, catching the football. He’s everything you want in a college football player.”
Posluszny’s high standards apply to his life off the field as well. He completed his work for his degree in finance in just three and one-half years. He graduated in December with a 3.56 grade point average. He was a dean’s list student and a two-time academic All-American.
Mark Wogenrich of the Allentown Morning Call reported a chance encounter between Posluszny and Allen Weisselberg, executive vice-president of the Trump Organization. They met in 2005 when Weisselberg, whose son is a Penn State graduate, came to State College for a game. Weisselberg complimented Posluszny on his play.
“He sheepishly said, ‘Thank you, sir,’ with total respect,” Weisselberg told Wogenrich. “He was almost embarrassed by the compliment. To me, a moment like that was a throwback to the days when respect and humility meant something.”