Is it possible to remember Joe Paterno for all the good he did and overlook the recent scandal that rocked Penn State and ultimately led to his dismissal as Head Coach? I won’t try to answer that right now. In fact, even if I wanted to answer it I still don’t know how to deal with the question. All I’d like to do is share with you my memories of Paterno and how he had an impact on my life.
I didn’t know him personally. I’m not a graduate of Penn State. I’ve never even stepped foot on the campus, yet for as long as I can remember, I’ve bled blue and white. Growing up in my house there was Penn State football and everyone else. I couldn’t tell you why I rooted for them, I have no ties to Penn State nor does any of my family, but every Saturday in the fall when I wasn’t playing my own football game, I was watching the Nittany Lions with my family.
It wasn’t until I got older for me to realize the allure of Penn State football. It was the white helmets, plain jerseys, black shoes, no names on the uniforms but most of all it was Joe Paterno. He was a man who preached about doing things the right way. I admired Paterno’s coaching style. He was passionate, brash, yet at the same time extremely humble. He was a perfectionist and a teacher. It was more than football to Paterno, it was taking the game of football and using it as a tool to turn boys into men. His mantra was “success with honor” and he never compromised that.
Paterno’s record of charity is well documented. Not only did he give millions to Penn State, he gave his life. He lived on campus in a modest home. The same home he lived in for 45 years. He walked through campus to get to work everyday always stopping to converse with anyone who wanted to talk. He cared about his players as men and not just athletes. He was the Head Coach at Penn State for 46 years. While most high profile coaches are looked at as rock stars in their profession, Paterno was always just Joe. It was never about the wins or losses with him. When he decided to forego law school as a fresh graduate of Brown University and become a football coach at a little school in Pennsylvania, his father Angelo gave him one piece of advice; make an impact. He’s certainly made an impact on my life. We will never see another coach like him.