76 Days Before Penn State Football

Penn State is aiming to bounce back into the Big Ten this fall after a 7-6 win last season. The Nittany Lions fell 5-0 in 2021, ending in an Outback Bowl loss, but have since used the transfer portal and a class among the top 10 recruiters to rearrange the list.

PSU opens its 2022 game schedule September 1 at Purdue, and in the meantime, our Countdown to Kickoff series will feature players whose uniform numbers match the number of days remaining until that game. We continue with #76, and since no current Nittany Lion has this number, we refer it to All American Steve Smear.


Position: defensive tackle
Cut: 6-1, 227 pounds
High school: Bishop McCort (Johnstown, Pennsylvania)

Steve Smear played football and basketball at Bishop McCort and was recruited by power programs in the East and Midwest. He ultimately chose Penn State over Notre Dame and Michigan State because of the opportunity to play early, so it would be easier for his mother to come watch him play. He came to Happy Valley in 1966 as part of Joe Paterno’s first recruiting class as a head coach. He started his career at tight end as a true freshman before moving to D-tackle.

Smear was among a group of young players who helped put Penn State on the map. In 1967, he joined Altoona native and classmate Mike Reid in the starting lineup at defensive tackle. In a program that has had many outstanding DT combos over the years, a fair argument can be made that Reid-Smear was the best. They led a dominating defense that allowed the Lions to close the 1967 campaign with seven wins and a tie (8-2-1 overall) before posting back-to-back perfect seasons in 1968 and 1969. It amounted to a streak 30 games unbeaten.

Reid has received most of the publicity over this defense, and rightly so. He was a first-team All-American and won the Outland Trophy in 1969. But Smear was a second-team All-American that same year and an honorable mention pick in 1968. Smear actually led the Nittany Lions in tackles in 1968., posting 56 solo saves and 36 assists (according to Lou Prato’s Penn State Football Encyclopedia).

Also in 1969, Smear won the Nils V. “Swede” Nelson Award, which was given by the Greater Boston Area Gridiron Club to the “player who, by his conduct on and off the gridiron, demonstrates high regard for the code of football and exemplifies sportsmanship to an exceptional degree.

Smear also deserves credit for helping Penn State sign a player who went on to become one of the greatest linebackers in school history. Smear had a senior fellow at Bishop McCort who was lightly recruited and decided to head to Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia for a year at the prep school level.

In 1967, Paterno called Smear into his office and asked about the player in question. Smear vouched for him, and with that Paterno offered the young man the last available scholarship for that class.

The child’s name was Jack Ham, who became an All-American linebacker at Penn State in 1970, and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

The Baltimore Colts won Smear in the fourth round of the 1970 NFL Draft, but he opted to play in the Canadian Football League instead. Playing defensive end and linebacker, he played for the Montreal Alouettes (1970-72), Toronto Argonauts (1973) and Saskatchewan Rougpilots (1974-75). He was CFL All-Star in 1970 and CFL East All-Star in 1970 and 1971.

Smear entered the insurance industry in the 1970s. Now 74, he is retired and lives in Annapolis, Maryland.

Exam our previous Countdown to Kickoff profiles…

77-Sal Wormley
78 – Golden Israel-Achumba
79 – Caedan Wallace
80 – Malick Meiga
81 – KyleBrady
82 – Liam Clifford
83 – Joe Jurevicius
84 – Theo Johnson
85 – Harrison Wallace
86 – Brenton Strange
87 – Pat Freiermuth
88 – jerry cross
89-David Robinson
90 – Rodney McGraw
91 – D’Von Ellies
92 – Jake Pinegar and Smith Vilbert
93 – Brandon Noble
94 – Sander Sahaydak
95 – Carl Nassib
96 – Emmanuel Iyke
97 – PJ Mustipher
98 – Jordan Stout
99 – Coziah Izzard

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