Former Penn State All-America linebacker Shane Conlan, the leader of the Nittany Lions' tenacious 1985-86 defenses, has been elected to the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame.

Conlan is the 18th Penn State player to receive college football's ultimate honor.

"It's been a tough time the last few years at Penn State," he said, fighting back tears as he thanked "The late, great Joe Paterno. We miss you, Coach."

Conlan will be inducted with other members of the Class of 2014 at the National Football Foundation's 57th annual awards dinner on Dec. 9 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. He will become the 23rd member of the Penn State program inducted, joining 17 other former players and five Nittany Lion coaches. The most recent Penn State player so honored was running back Curt Warner in 2009.

"It's a great honor to join all the former Penn State players and all the great players in the College Football Hall of Fame," said Conlan. "It's very humbling. The list of nominees was such a distinguished group."

A native of Frewsburg, N.Y, Conlan was a standout at Frewsburg Central High School before going to Penn State, where he was instrumental in the Nittany Lions posting a 23-1 mark his last two seasons, capped by the 1986 national championship. A senior co-captain in 1986, Conlan led Penn State to a stunning 14-10 win over No. 1 Miami (Fla.) in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl to capture Penn State's second national title in five seasons.

Late Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas was elected, along with LaDainian Tomlinson, Sterling Sharpe and Tony Boselli.

Thomas played for the Tide from 1985-88, and won the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker as a senior when he had 27 sacks. He finished his career with 52 sacks, a school record. He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and made nine Pro Bowls. Thomas died in 2000 after an automobile accident left him paralyzed. He was 33. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Tomlinson led the nation in rushing in his final two seasons at TCU (1999 and 2000) and finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 2000.

Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton was the Heisman runner-up to Ron Dayne in 1999.

Boselli played tackle at Southern California from 1991-94 and was the second overall draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995. Louisiana Tech tackle Willie Roaf was a finalist for the Outland Trophy as a senior in 1992.

Sterling Sharpe held virtually every receiving record when he left South Carolina after the 1987 season.

The rest of the players who will be inducted during the National Football Foundation's awards banquet in December are: North Carolina cornerback Dre Bly; Purdue defensive tackle Dave Butz; Maine linebacker John Huard; Stanford running back Darrin Nelson; UCLA quarterback John Sciarra; McNeese State defensive back Leonard Smith; and Mississippi tight end Wesley Walls.

The two coaches who will join the Hall of Fame are Mike Bellotti, who led Oregon from 1995-2008, and Jerry Moore, who coached at North Texas, Texas Tech and Appalachian State.