The great thing about the whole Mount Rushmore conversation is everybody has a different combination of faces that would be carved in to the side of the mountain. After giving it some thought, these are the four names I would have carved in to the side of Mount Nittany if it were up to me.
This is the most obvious name, of course. Paterno is Penn State football, and although his career ended under difficult and complicated circumstances, there is no questioning the impact Paterno had on so many people on and off the field and nobody would question the fact that Paterno molded Penn State in to the program it is today. Though no longer officially recognized, Paterno's 409 wins in division one football was a testament to decades of sticking to a formula that was successful on the field and off for many.
In 1946 Penn State voted to cancel a game against Miami rather than play a game without Triplett and Dennie Hoggard, both African-American players. Miami joined many southern schools in refusing to play integrated teams unless they left their black players home. That did not fly with Penn State. Two years later the team made a statement again when SMU wanted to have a meeting about playing the Cotton Bowl because Triplett and Hoggard were on the team. And so the story goes, Steve Suhey proclaimed "We are Penn State. There will be no meetings." Triplett scored the game-tying touchdown in the 13-13 tie against SMU in that season's Cotton Bowl. He went on to become the first drafted African American player to play in a league game.
I have a pretty simple rule in place for this discussion. If you are the only Heisman Trophy winner in school history, you deserve one of the four spots on the Mt. Rushmore. Such is the case for Cappelletti, who also delivered one of the most iconic and memorable Heisman Trophy acceptance speeches in 1973. Here we are, 40 years later, and Cappelletti remains Penn State's only Heisman Trophy winner. Cappelletti's No. 22 will officially be retired by the school at the completion of running back Akeel Lynch's career at Penn State. No pressure Lynch.
Penn State is known to many as Linebacker U, and Ham is one of the earliest reasons why. The College Football Hall of Fame linebacker was an All-American at Penn State, but he is best known for his decorated NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1970s. Ham was a three-year starter at Penn State and went on to be named an eight-time Pro Bowler and was later named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary team and the all-time Pittsburgh Steelers team. Many great linebackers have come and gone since Ham last played in State College, but if you trace the Linebacker U legacy to its root, you will likely find Ham at the origin.
Mount Nittany Rushmore, Big Ten Era
If you want a more modern version of a Mount Nittany Rushmore, I decided to throw together a Big Ten era group. I'm sticking with four names, which is not easy at all. (It was so difficult I already edited the four names appearing just because I was convinced otherwise to go with another name below).
Joe Paterno: Still have to keep the icon in the mix in the first slot.
Kerry Collins: The greatest Penn State quarterback of all-time, simply put. You could make a case for Ki-Jana Carter if taking someone from the 1994 team, but Collins would ultimately win the argument every time. I go with Collins for being the best quarterback in program history and his numbers put up during the 1994 season remain among the best in school history in many categories.
LaVar Arrington: I originally had Paul Posluszny carved in to this spot, but after having it argued another way I was quick to overturn who gets this spot. LaVar Arrington was the most athletic linebacker in Penn State history and he remains one of the best athletes to suit up in the blue and white. He was a part of one of the best defenses in Penn State history and his LaVar Leap against Illinois remains a signature play.
Michael Robinson: Few players in the Big Ten era devoted as much to the program's success as Robinson. Robinson just wanted to play football and filled holes in various positions until finally getting a chance to be the full-time quarterback during one of the most important seasons in program history, at least within the last 40 years.