Six Aggie greats will join more than 100 already inducted into the Utah State Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday evening.
The 17th class includes two basketball players, two football athletes, a wrestler and a volleyball player. Each made their mark on USU athletics.
The six inductees include: Zuzana Cernianska, an All-American volleyball player; Eric Franson, a three-time all-conference basketball player and conference player of the year; Russ Paulsen, one of the winningest wrestlers in school history; Donald Penn, one of the best Aggie football players along the offensive line in school history; Kevin Robinson, an All-American football player; and Kendall Youngblood, a three-time all-conference basketball player.
The six were recognized Friday night during the USU football game against North Dakota, but will be formally inducted on Saturday. A total of 115 individuals and three teams have now been inducted into the USU Athletics Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1993.
Now a look at the newest members.
She is one of 11 volleyball players in school history to earn All-America honors. Cernianska was a four-year starter, helping the Aggies to the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Following her senior season, she was named an honorable mention All-American and to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-West Region Team.
Cernianska was a three-time first-team all-conference selection in both the Western Athletic Conference (2005) and Big West (2003, 2004) and was the Big West Conference Co-Freshman of the Year in 2002. Off the court, she was a three-time academic all-conference honoree.
Cernianska set school records for kills (1,813) and attempts (4,423). She also ranks second all-time in school history with 137 career service aces and sixth with 1,053 career digs. She hit .226 during her career and recorded double-figure kills in 86 matches, while reaching the 20-kill mark 32 times. She finished her time at USU with 38 double-doubles and four triple-doubles.
As a senior in 2005, she averaged 4.5 kills, 2.5 digs, 0.7 blocks and 0.3 service aces per set, while recording double-digit kills 25 times, including 15 matches where she tallied 20 or more. Her 585 kills as a senior rank first all-time in school history, while her 1,421 attempts rank second all-time.
As a junior, Cernianska averaged 4.5 assists, 3.6 kills, 2.5 digs and 0.6 blocks per set. Her 40 service aces that year are the eighth-most in school history. Cernianska still holds the fifth-place spot on the single-season kills record list, recording 471 as a sophomore in 2003, while her 1,179 attempts that season rank eighth. As a sophomore, she averaged 4.5 kills, 2.2 digs and 0.4 blocks per set.
Cernianska made an immediate impact on the court for the Aggies as a freshman, leading the team in digs (242) and service aces (36), while finishing second in kills (385), assists (412) and blocks (83). As a hitter, she averaged 3.9 assists, 3.6 kills, 2.3 digs and 0.8 blocks per set. Following her collegiate career, she played professionally for nine years in France.
A member of USU’s All-Century basketball team, Franson was a three-time all-Big West selection and one of just seven Aggies to ever be named conference player of the year, after averaging 18.4 points and a team-best 9.8 rebounds per game as a junior, while shooting a team-best 56.9 percent.
As a senior, Franson earned first-team all-Big West honors as he averaged 16.2 points and a team-best 8.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 52.0 percent. His 534 points as both a junior and senior are tied for the 37th-most in school history, and he ranks 19th and 20th all-time in rebounding with 283 boards during his junior season and 282 as a senior.
As a sophomore, Franson was named to the league’s second team after averaging 12.3 points and a team-best 9.2 rebounds, while shooting 53.0 percent. As a freshman, Franson averaged 5.1 points and 2.6 rebounds and was named to the Big West All-Freshman team.
Franson finished his career among the top-10 all-time in school history in 10 different statistical categories, including second in free throws attempted (626), second in consecutive double-digit scoring outings (56), third in double-digit rebounding games (36), tied for in third in double-doubles (36), fifth in rebounds (885), eighth in double-digit scoring games (80), tied for eighth in games started (99), 10th in field goals made (584), tied for 10th in consecutive double-doubles with five on two occasions during his career and is 11th in minutes played (3,349). He is one of just five Aggies to lead his team in rebounding in three consecutive seasons.
Along with his success on the court, Franson earned numerous honors for his academic success, including being named a GTE Academic All-American and earning academic all-Big West and academic all-district accolades during each of his final two seasons. After graduating from USU with a degree in civil and environmental engineering, Franson played five seasons of professional basketball on several different teams in Europe.
A three-time team captain, Paulsen finished his Aggie career as one of the most accomplished athletes in USU wrestling history. Competing from 1972-75, Paulsen finished his four-year Aggie career with an overall individual record of 87-13-2, which was the most wins ever by a USU wrestler at the time.
Paulsen was a two-time NCAA participant in two different weight classes, wrestling at 158 pounds as a sophomore and 177 pounds as a senior. During his senior year, Paulsen had a perfect 30-0-1 record in dual matches while wrestling above his weight class, and he was the No. 2 seed going into the NCAA Tournament that year. He was also awarded the Wayne Estes Memorial Award, which is given annually to the top USU senior student-athlete from any sport. Paulsen was also presented with the George “Doc” Nelson Award, which was given to the top individual wrestler on the team.
During his freshman year in 1972, he became the first Aggie wrestler to ever be named USU Freshman of the Year after posting a 16-3-1 record and winning the Beehive Tournament. He went on to become a three-time champion of the Beehive Tournament during his career, and in 1975, he had the opportunity to represent the West at the ninth annual East vs. West All-Star meet in Clarion, Pa.
He was also the first Aggie wrestler to ever win an individual title at the Arizona Invitational. Paulsen helped USU to an overall mark of 46-17-2 over his four years and led the Aggies to a pair of top-five regional finishes. Following his collegiate career, Paulsen served as an assistant coach with the Aggie program for three seasons, before coaching at Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City for one year, West Jordan (Utah) High School for two years and eventually settling down as the head coach at Bingham High School in South Jordan. At Bingham, he coached 11 state champions and 89 state placers in 25 years. Paulsen retired from coaching in 2018.
A four-year anchor on the offensive line, Penn is one of the most accomplished football players to ever put on the Aggie uniform. After taking over the reins as the starting right tackle in the third game of his freshman season, Penn went on to start 44 consecutive games for USU. Following his freshman season, he made the switch to left tackle, where he started every game of his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
During his senior year in 2005, Penn was selected by his teammates as a team captain. He earned second-team all-WAC honors following the season, and was selected to play in the Hula Bowl, an annual all-star game consisting of many of the nation’s top football players. As a senior, Penn helped pave the way for an Aggie offense that averaged 405.6 yards of total offense per game — 144.1 on the ground and 261.5 through the air — and 32.7 points per game.
Following his collegiate career, Penn entered the NFL and was signed by the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent. Following a brief stint in Minnesota, Penn was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where just four games into his professional career he became a starter. He spent seven years in Tampa Bay before a six-year stint with the Oakland Raiders.
During the summer of 2019, Penn signed a deal to continue his career with the Washington Redskins, making him one of the longest-tenured offensive linemen in the NFL. Penn’s record of consistency and durability continued into his NFL career, as he played in a streak of 170 consecutive starts, which ran for over a decade between 2006-17. At the time, that was the longest-running streak of consecutive starts for a lineman in the NFL.
During his 14-year NFL career, Penn has been selected to the Pro Bowl three times (2010, 2016, 2017), has started 184 career games. He caught six passes for 26 yards and four touchdowns, which is tied for the most touchdowns in NFL history by an offensive lineman.
One of the most dynamic playmakers in USU football history, Robinson earned All-American accolades from six different publications during his senior season in 2007, including first-team honors from CBSSportsline.com. He was also a first-team all-WAC selection as a senior as he set the then-NCAA record with 1,260 kickoff return yards.
As a senior, Robinson led the WAC and was eighth in the nation with 193.08 all-purpose yards per game and led the NCAA with an 18.9 yards per punt return average. He also ranked third in the league and sixth in the nation in kickoff returns with a 29.3 yards per return average as a senior and had three kick returns for touchdown, one of only two players in the country to do so. He was also the only player in the country with four combined kick returns for touchdowns during the 2007 season.
With 2,317 all-purpose yards as a senior, Robinson ranks No. 2 all-time in the WAC and is one of just nine players in the history of the league to top the 2,000 all-purpose yards mark. Robinson, who was also named a first-team freshman All-American by The Sporting News, ended his collegiate career as the NCAA career record holder with a 16.16 yards per play average as he notched 6,479 career yards in 401 career plays, which now ranks 16th all-time in the NCAA. Robinson also tied the NCAA record with eight combined kick and punt return touchdowns in his career.
He is the school’s career record holder with 178 receptions and eight combined kick returns for touchdowns and tied for first all-time at USU with four punt returns for touchdowns. He also ranks second all-time in school history in kickoff returns for touchdowns with four, second in all-purpose yards (6,479), second in punt return average (14.1 ypr), third in receiving yards (2,485), tied for third in receiving touchdowns with 21 and fifth all-time in kickoff return average (25.2 ypr). Robinson had six 100-yard receiving games and he accounted for 150 all-purpose yards 17 times.
Following his senior season, Robinson was invited to participate in the annual East vs. West Shrine game in Houston, Texas, where he had a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown, as well as a receiving touchdown. Robinson was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs and then spent the 2009 season in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The eighth-leading scorer in USU basketball history with 1,749 career points, Youngblood was a three-time all-Big West Conference selection and the 1989 Big West Freshman of the Year. During his four-year career, Youngblood started 113 out of a possible 114 games, the sixth-most in school history.
Youngblood scored 15.4 points per game as a sophomore, 18.8 as a junior and 17.1 as a senior, becoming one of just five Aggie basketball players to ever lead the team in scoring in three-consecutive seasons. During his junior and senior seasons, Youngblood also led the Aggies on the glass, averaging 6.5 and 7.7 rebounds per game, respectively. His career total of 674 rebounds ranks 14th in program history.
He finished his career ranking among the top 10 players in 11 different statistical categories, including fourth in steals (164), fifth in assists (389) and double-digit scoring games (93). He also ranks fifth all-time in school history in 3-point shooting (.424), sixth in free throws attempted (593), seventh in free throws made (447) and field goals attempted (1,348), eighth in field goals made (629), ninth in total minutes played (3,674), tied for 14th in total blocks (56), tied for 18th in games played (114) and 19th all-time in points per game (15.6). Youngblood also ranks among the top 10 in the freshman record books in 16 statistics.
In 2005, Youngblood was announced as one of 16 former basketball players named to the USU All-Century Team.