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Many qualities in a successful linebacker

By Ron Vanderlinden

Linebackers are the heart of the defense. The defensive tempo is set by the enthusiasm and intensity of the linebacker play. The linebackers are also the "glue" that holds the defense together in adverse situations. The linebackers’ attitude is crucial to the attitude of the defense. Many qualities are necessary to be a successful linebacker:

  • Competitiveness
  • Intelligence
  • Physical toughness
  • Leadership
  • Willingness to be coached
  • Quickness
  • Agility
  • Strength

However, the one quality that sets a great linebacker apart from the rest is his attitude. A linebacker with the right attitude has a positive, powerful presence. The ability to defeat blockers, get to the ball, and make tackles is an "attitude." Seizing the opportunity and making the big play is an "attitude." Champions play with an attitude. Attitude in a linebacker is powerful and productive on and off the field. A linebacker with the right attitude is always positive, lifting up those around him. The right attitude makes average players good and makes good players great. Desire and determination constitute the attitude that a linebacker should possess. His attitude should come from the heart. Great players have great hearts!

Penn State players Paul Posluszny, Tim Shaw, and Dan Connor exemplified all the qualities of great linebackers. Paul and Tim both finished their careers after the 2006 season. Both players earned academic All-American honors and both players were drafted into the NFL. Paul was also a two-time Chuck Bednarik Award winner as the college football defensive player of the year and the winner of the 2005 Butkus Award, which is given to college football’s best linebacker. Dan Connor finished his playing career at Penn State after the 2007 season. He broke Paul’s career all-time tackle record, and he won the Chuck Bednarik Award.


What made Paul, Tim, and Dan so special was the way they led by example. From the day they arrived for their first workout, they competed to be the best at everything they did. They won every conditioning drill by a wide margin, both during the season and in the off-season. If they weren’t perfect in practice, they would stay until they were. In addition, they were 20 minutes early to every meeting. All three players were encouraging and positive to their teammates. They would not hesitate to talk with a teammate who was out of line, and because of the tremendous respect and affection they each had earned, their input was always well received.

This is an excerpt from Football’s Eagle and Stack Defenses.


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Football's Eagle & Stack Defenses

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