In the ’80s, prior to the #11 jersey gaining its coveted status among linebackers at “Linebacker U,” the number 31 held significance, symbolizing some of Penn State’s most formidable linebackers. Both NFL Hall of Famer Shane Conlan and All-American Andre Collins proudly sported the #31 jersey, striking fear into their opponents. When Paul Posluszny, who initially wore #39 in his freshman year, made the switch to #31 before his sophomore year, he added his own unique chapter to the illustrious history of that iconic number.
Posluszny, a native of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, began his career as an outside linebacker for the Nittany Lions. In 2005, he showcased his exceptional skills and earned recognition as a first-team All-American. He received this prestigious title from esteemed organizations such as the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, Sporting News, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Posluszny’s outstanding performance also led to him winning the Butkus Award, which honors the nation’s top linebacker. He continued his impressive streak in 2006, becoming just the second player ever to win the Chuck Bednarik Award twice, solidifying his reputation as the nation’s top defensive player and one of college football’s all-time greats.
Posluszny’s defensive prowess was evident in his stellar tackling ability. He led the team in tackles three times and achieved three 100-tackle seasons, with a remarkable 116 tackles in 2006. This remarkable feat made him Penn State’s career tackle leader, amassing a total of 372 tackles throughout his collegiate career. Here was his own variation of the famous “Lavar Leap”.
Beyond his football achievements, Posluszny excelled academically as well. He was named a two-time first-team ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American and received the prestigious recognition of being named the 2006 Academic All-American of the Year among Division I football players. His dedication to both athletics and academics sets him apart, making him one of the few Nittany Lions, alongside Jeff Hartings (1994-95), to earn first-team All-America and Academic All-America honors twice.
Posluszny’s exceptional college career paved the way for a successful professional journey. In the 2007 NFL Draft, he was selected as the Buffalo Bills’ second pick of the second round. He played four seasons (2007-2010) with the Bills before continuing his professional career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he showcased his talents for seven seasons (2011-2017).