Big Ten: Leo Wisniewski

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

When most players make a position change, they usually consult a coach for guidance or a teammate who has gone through a similar transition.

Stefen Wisniewski simply called his uncle.

Steve Wisniewski twice earned first-team All-America honors as a guard at Penn State. He went on to become an eight-time Pro Bowler in the NFL, primarily playing guard but also serving as a backup center for the Oakland Raiders.  

 
  Paul Spinelli/Getty Images
  Penn State guard/center Stefen Wisniewski has plenty of family advice to draw on to aid his position transition.
Not a bad resource for Stefen, who this spring made the shift from right guard to center at Penn State.

"It's one thing to have some family with some football experience," Stefen Wisniewski said, "but to have guys that played your same position, it's unbelievable because they know exactly what you're going through and they can give you tips based on what they did."

It's one of the perks of being a Wisniewski, especially at Penn State. Though the Paternos will always be the royal family in Happy Valley, the Wisniewskis are certainly part of the nobility. 

In addition to Steve, who played on Penn State's last national championship team in 1986, Stefen's dad Leo was a standout defensive tackle for the Nittany Lions from 1979-81. Stefen is next in line, and he moves into a greater leadership role along a new-look offensive line as he replaces Rimington Trophy winner A.Q. Shipley at center.

Having such a storied lineage at one program can heighten pressure on a player, but Wisniewski, a 6-3, 302-pound junior, doesn't see it that way. 

"It definitely motivates me to want to keep the name up and even try to one-up those guys," he said. "It's not real easy. They were both top-30 draft picks. My uncle was a two-time All-American, so it's going to take a lot, but I'm certainly going to try to and if not, at least keep the respect that the Wisniewski name has up here."

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- When searching Penn State's roster for an authority on the program's rich history, center Stefen Wisniewski is a pretty good place to start.

 
  Rich Kane/US PRESSWIRE
  Stefen Wisniewski leads an offensive line that loses three of its five starters from last season.

His dad, Leo, starred on Penn State's defensive line from 1979 to 1981 and helped the Lions to two Fiesta Bowl victories. His uncle Steve was a two-time first-team All-American on Penn State's offensive line and played for the national championship squad in 1986 before becoming an eight-time Pro Bowler for the Raiders.

The next man to carry the proud Wisniewski name at Penn State has a good handle on the program's past, present and future. After starting at guard on a Lions team that shared the Big Ten title last fall, Stefen recognizes the significance of a repeat league championship.

"It would mean that we're not just a once-in-a-while good team," he said.

And that's exactly what Penn State has been since joining the Big Ten in 1993.

The Lions have been Big Ten champions three times in 16 years. They won the outright title in 1994, en route to a 12-0 season and a Rose Bowl victory, and shared the crown both in 2005 and last season.

Penn State is tied with both Wisconsin and Northwestern for Big Ten championships during the span, and trails only Ohio State (8) and Michigan (5). But the Lions have yet to secure back-to-back league titles and haven't posted consecutive 10-win seasons since their first two years in the league (1993-94).

Pegged to be the Big Ten's third powerhouse program when it joined the league, Penn State is still trying to reserve a spot at the head table alongside Ohio State and Michigan.

The wait could be over this fall.

Despite losing a good chunk of last year's team, these Lions are still hungry, and several factors point to another Big Ten feast in 2009.

"It's always hard to repeat anything," junior linebacker Navorro Bowman said. "Our goal is to be the best, and our ultimate goal is to win a national championship, but our focus is the Big Ten. Once the Big Ten starts and we get it going, there's no telling what's going to happen.

"We still have guys here who understand what it takes to win, and we plan on doing it."

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