While the rest of college football decays around him, Joe Paterno remains a class act. He wins and he does it the right way, the Joe Paterno way, but more importantly the Penn State way, 362 times and counting.
His players do not taunt, strut or dance. They just simply hand the ball off to a referee every time they score a touchdown.
His teams do not represent the badass era of teams such as Miami and Virginia Tech. Instead, the represent pride and success with honor.
They do not go on shopping sprees at Champs Sports with a booster’s credit card, such as students at USC may.
Their uniforms are not flashy. Instead, they put on college football’s most distinctive uniforms.
Their 86% graduation rate is amongst the best in college football.
Although he only has two National Championships, in 1982 and ’86, Paterno has five undefeated seasons: 1968, ’69, ’72, ’86, and 1994.
The 1986 SI Sportsman of the Year award winner (the first college coach ever to be given the honor), Paterno was also named the 2005 Associated Press Coach of the Year.
Pattee Library, in State College, PA, is now known as Paterno Library after him and his wife, Sue, donated $4 million to have it expanded.
Add to that another $13.5 million in donations to the University and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the entire town named in his honor one day.
But nobody is thinking of that right now. Because Joe Paterno, now 80 years young, still feels he has something left to prove.
Born Joseph Vincent Paterno, on December 21, 1924 in Brooklyn, Joe nearly had to drop out of high school as the burden of tuition was too much for his family to handle during the American Depression of the 1930’s.
Joe did graduate, however, and then went to play on the Brown University football team, where he set the career interceptions record at 14.
It was there where Joe Paterno’s life would change forever. He would meet the man, in Rip Engle, who would teach Paterno the leadership and class act qualities he still possesses today.
When Engle took over the 1950 Nittany Lions’ squad, he took Joe with him. And once Rip retired following the 1965 season, a 39-year old Paterno took the reign. Things haven’t changed much since.
There are truly very few good men left in America. Joe Paterno is one of the few.
Joe Paterno is not a man who wishes to discuss his legacy. In fact, he would rather talk to an individual about a blown blocking assignment during a blowout of a non-conference game.
During his time in Happy Valley, Paterno has touched the hearts of 110,000 fans every Saturday during the fall. He has, in time, become a symbol, a symbol of a simpler time, and a symbol of what is good about living in America.
Only Joe Paterno could run down a referee over a blown call and then only hours later laugh about it during another humorous press conference.
Paterno understands and preaches Student-Athlete, not Athlete-Student.
His phone number is even listed in the phone book.
His tenure at Penn State has spanned the time of eleven different United States Presidents. But JoePa still comes to every game dressed in shirt and tie, the same rolled up khakis, and the same black sneakers.
While gas prices have spiked considerably over the years, Paterno’s values remain the same.
It’s not often an 80 year old man is looked up to and respected like Joe Paterno is. This celebration is truly one of a kind.
So let the Paterno family and the fans of Penn State celebrate the same way Joe would want anyone to celebrate such an event.
Let him and his family, celebrate in peace.
No, “He’s too old, he can’t coach, this and that.” No, there will be none of that. It’s over now.
There is still an obvious fire burning inside of him, let the man be.
Joe Paterno will always be loved in State College, and by the thousands of people, such as me, who do not have the liberty to live in the great town that he does.
No, not many of us have been around as long as Joe Paterno has been coaching at Penn State, but we know who Joe Paterno is.
We know about his stories and we know that he cared. We know he is more than a football coach. We know there will be a time where there will no longer be a Joe Paterno.
Until then, we will continue to love Joe Paterno for who he is, and who Joe Paterno wants us to be.
Thank you Joe Paterno, for all you have done for the Penn State Community and the college football world. No one will ever be able to replace a man who resembles such pride and dignity.
We are… Joe Paterno. Joe Paterno is Penn State. We are… Penn State!
Copyright ©2006 Colin Cerniglia. All Rights Reserved.