September 1, 2010

Dan 'Mad Rad' Radakovich, Father of Linebacker U

Correction: Lou Prato is co-authoring the book with Radakovich

Dan "Bad Rad" Radakovich (RMU Photo)
Earlier this week, I asked all of you Penn State "Who is 'The Father of Linebacker U'?" I'm thinking that this will become some sort of regular thing here, as it's always fun to chat some Penn State history/trivia. But there is an interesting influence to this idea and the first question I asked you all. See, a few days ago I got an email from Lou Prato, the most official unofficial Penn State football historian. Seeing how LBU plays on one of Penn State football's proudest traditions, Lou suggested I test your--the readers'--Nittany knowledge on just where the "Linebacker U" moniker came from, starting with the man responsible for building Penn State's reputation for producing the best linebackers in college football.

Ok, ok, so who the heck is the father of Linebacker U?

[drum roll...] Dan "Bad Rad" Radakovich

50 years of football...
Radakovich graduated from Penn State in 1957, where he later coached from 1957-69, he also was an assistant at Cincinnati (1970), Colorado (1972-73) and North Carolina State (1982). In the NFL, coached with the St. Louis Rams (1995), Cleveland Browns (1989-90), the New York Jets (1985-88), Minnesota Vikings (1984), Denver Broncos (1983), Los Angeles Rams (1979-81), San Francisco 49ers (1978) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (1971, 1974-77). Rad returned to the college ranks, as an assistant coach for Robert Morris until retiring in 2008.

Most of you western Pennsylvanians will probably know the name more from his tenure with the Steelers, winning two Super Bowls coaching up the legendary "Steel Curtain." But for Penn Staters, his name is probably not known well enough. That's all going to change, right now...

'The Father'...
Prato is currently co-authoring Radakovich's book, tentatively titled “Bad Rad: The Father of Linebacker U and The Steel Curtain," is set to publish sometime next spring. In advance of this, Lou was generous enough to offer up a sneak peek into the history behind the nickname "Linebacker U":
The reputation has its genesis in the late 1950’s when former Lion linebacker Dan Radakovich (1954-56) took over as Penn State’s first linebacker coach, first as an undergraduate assistant in 1957-58, then as a graduate assistant in 1959, and finally as the first full time assistant coach hired specifically to coach line backers. Radakovich, widely known by his nickname, “Bad Rad”, was one of the stars in one of Penn State’s biggest upsets, a 7-6 win over heavily favored Ohio State in Columbus in 1956. Among Bad Rad’s first pupils were Steve Garban (current Board of Trustees president) and Chuck Ruslavage (a longtime coach at Clarion). Following them were Ralph Baker (an 11-year pro and Super Bowl winner with the New York Jets) and Bill Saul (who spent eight years with the Colts and Steelers of the NFL).

Penn State’s All-American defensive ends such as Bob Mitinger (1961) and Dave Robinson (1962) also made their names as linebackers in the NFL about the same time that All-American standouts Dennis Onkotz (1968-69) and Jack Ham (1970) built the tradition on campus under Radakovich. Penn State now has had 17 players earn All-American honors while playing linebacker for the Nittany Lions, including the Lions’ first All-American, William T. “Mother” Dunn.
But we're not yet finished with our little history lesson on "Linebacker U," as we've only covered the man behind the name. Next week (appropriately timed, as you'll see) we'll have a little more from Lou. But you'll have to wait until then... start studying, class resumes on Monday.

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  1. Do you know if "Bad Rad" is of any relation to the LT that transferred from PSU to Youngstown State, which we will see starting for YSU tomorrow?

  2. FYI - his stat line from YSU roster:

    72 Andrew Radakovich T 6-6 300 SO STEUBENVILLE, OH

  3. @Eric, That was the very first thing I asked Lou when he told me about Rad. But it turns out it's just a coincidence. Andrew isn't related to Dan. That would have been a pretty cool storyline for this week, too.

  4. @ Mike... thanks for the update. You are right- this would be a very intersting color story for the YSU game.

    BTW, I know the game isn't tomorrow. It just so happens I leave for Happy Valley tomorrow and the excitment of it all got in the way of my typing....

  5. @Eric, I got a full weekend of college football myself. Heading up tomorrow to the Rutgers season opener, then out to State College for Saturday. If you're as excited as I think you are, check back here later today, as we'll have something that will really get you going for gameday...