I put the offer out to some of my Penn State friends, asking them to write a tribute to Joe Paterno. I'll be posting them as I receive them. If anyone reading this would like to post a tribute, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
The following is a tribute from Dan Kennedy, and he says it better than I ever could.
The Greatest Penn State Fan
I thought I was the biggest Penn State fan in the world.
I could name high school stats and 40-yard dash times of incoming
recruits. If you gave me a jersey number, I could name the
corresponding player. I had been to almost every home game from 1991
to 2010, to include Joe Paterno’s 300th win, record breaking 324th win
and his 400th win. I rushed the field in 2005 when we beat Ohio State
at home. I watched as Adam Taliaferro, less than a year after being
paralyzed by a hit lead the team out of the tunnel to a roaring crowd
against Miami in 2001.
All of these reasons, I thought, was why in November of 2011, my world
was turned upside down. Penn State was rocked with allegations, Jerry
Sandusky, a man I grew up thinking of as a coaching giant was arrested
and accused of unspeakable things and Joe Paterno was suddenly and
disrespectfully dismissed by the Board of Trustees. Joe was then
diagnosed with cancer a week later. As anyone who has seen the
effects of cancer and its treatment knows, an 85 year old with lung
cancer doesn’t have much hope, regardless of how high their spirits
On January 22nd, 2012, Joe Paterno died and my heart was broken.
I made the drive to State college to wait in line and pay my respects
to Coach Paterno during one of the public viewings. As I walked past
the fields near the Intramural Building, past the stadium and Paterno
statue and came towards the Spiritual Center, the sight I saw was
incredible. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands, were gathered to pay
their respects. People young and old, every color, every size were
lined up zigging and zagging through the courtyard of Eisenhower
Chapel, stretching past the Forum, the Art
Museum, the Old Creamery and turning the corner, extending toward North Halls.
It didn’t take long to realize that I had been wrong all along about everything.
My favorite memories of Penn State were of tailgating in the fields
with my father and grandfather, my brother and eventually, all of the
close friends I had made during my time in Happy Valley. Every
Saturday morning, my family multiplied from 4 to sometimes as many as
30. These are friendships I still have and cherish today. Looking
around at the fathers and sons, mothers and daughters in line to pay
their respects, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had made
these bonds. The program that Joe Paterno built didn’t just give me
my sense of family, he gave it to us all.
The more I read about the man I looked forward to seeing prowling the
sidelines, the more the greatest revelation I’ve had cements itself
into my mind. Joe himself, as well as his children insisted until the
very end that he had no bitterness. He was dismissed, slapped with a
gag order and his name stricken from conference and national awards.
Yet a few days after being dismissed with a cell phone call which he
had to initiate, he and his wife Sue donated $100,000 to Penn State.
He entertained his visitors, to include many former and current
players. He took the time, although bedridden, to meet with and wish
luck to the incoming coach, Bill O’Brien. He died surrounded by his
family, but off to the side of the room was his favorite Penn State
sweatshirt hanging on a chair.
I thought I was the biggest Penn State fan in the world. But I was wrong.
That title went to Joe Paterno.