Penn State Among Elite Company With Four NFL Rookie Of The Year Recipients

Penn State football’s young stars have certainly showcased their tremendous talent in the NFL over the years. In fact, the Nittany Lions are one of just eight programs with at least four Rookie of the Year recipients in NFL history.

Since the honor’s inception in 1967, four Penn State alumni have taken the title home. Franco Harris (1972) and Saquon Barkley (2018) were named Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Shane Conlan (1987) and, now, Micah Parsons (2021) were named Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Oklahoma, Pitt, Arizona State, and Tennessee also boast four Rookie of the Year honorees in their storied histories. Miami (FL), Ohio State, and USC each lead the pack with six apiece.

Here’s a closer look at Penn State’s NFL Rookie of the Year honorees:

Franco Harris, 1972 (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Franco Harris was a part of one of the best dynasties in the history of the NFL: the Steel Curtain Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, Harris’s “Immaculate Reception” has gone down as one of the top plays in NFL history to this day.

In 1972, Harris played in 14 games for the Steelers and had 188 rush attempts for 1,055 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He also posted 21 receptions for 180 yards that season.

Shane Conlan, 1987 (Buffalo Bills)

Shane Conlan was a force at Penn State and helped the Nittany Lions claim national titles in 1982 and 1986. The linebacker’s success for the Nittany Lions led him to be the Buffalo Bills’ No. 8 overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft.

As a rookie, Conlan was able to put up incredible numbers for the Bills by starting and playing in 12 games. He tallied 114 total tackles, recorded half a sack, and forced one fumble.

Although Conlan’s sack numbers that year aren’t wildly impressive, his tackle mark definitely contributed to being named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1987.

Saquon Barkley, 2018 (New York Giants)

Saquon Barkley put Penn State football back on the map with his incredible seasons in 2016 and 2017. Unsurprisingly, Barkley was selected No. 2 overall by the New York Giants in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Barkley had a great year for the Giants in 2018, even with the lack of success overall from the Giants offensive line. He started and played in 16 games for New York and recorded 261 carries, 1,307 rushing yards, and 11 touchdowns. He also hauled in 91 passes for 721 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Micah Parsons, 2021 (Dallas Cowboys)

Arguably one of the greatest pure athletes to ever come out of Penn State, Micah Parsons made a huge splash in his first year in the NFL and completely changed the Dallas Cowboys’ defense.

Parsons started and played in 16 games and recorded 84 total tackles, 64 of which were solo efforts. He also produced 13 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Parsons’s efforts even placed him as the runner-up for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award, which went to Steelers linebacker TJ Watt.

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About the Author

Ethan Bell

Ethan is a freshman majoring in journalism at Penn State. He loves all things Pittsburgh sports and is the best league commissioner of all time in Fantasy Football. He is from Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and he swears that Fiori's in Pittsburgh is the best pizza in the world. If you want to get a hold of him, follow him on Twitter @EBell45 or email him at [email protected].

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