The Joe Paterno era was quite a long one in Happy Valley and it didn’t exactly have a happy ending. While we don’t spend my time reflecting on the coach, it is worth reflecting on the great players that came through the Penn State football program from 1966-2011.
During his 46-year tenure, Paterno won two national championships (1982, 1986), and he coached 36 bowl games. He only had five losing seasons and prior to sanctions had a career record of 409-136-3.
You’ll notice a trend in this list of the top 15 players from that extensive era, a lot of linebackers and running backs. There were certainly plenty of great Oklahoma drills in practice over the years. The Nittany Lions have an identity and it starts with those two positions, the ones that Paterno valued.
Honorable Mention: Evan Royster
- Career rushing yards: 3,932 (1st)
- Career YPC: 5.7
- Career rushing touchdowns: 29
- Career scrimmage yards: 4,494
The end of the Paterno era was far from the peak, but Royster was part of two 11-win teams in 2008 and 2009. Royster was the focal point of those teams on offense and had three straight seasons with over 1,000 rushing yards.
Royster was efficient with his career average of 5.7 yards per carry, but he never had a dominant season. 2008 was his best year when he finished third in the Big 10 in rushing yards with 1,236 yards and 12 touchdowns with an average of 6.5 yards per carry.
He deserves mention on this list as Penn State’s all-time leading rusher, but he was more of a compiler than a superstar. Royster was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL draft by Washington.