Joe Paterno, the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for 46 years, passed away this morning of complications from his treatment for lung cancer. It’s a sad day for college football fans the world over.
His football credo was “Success with Honor”, and that credo worked. As head coach, he won 409 Division I games, and two national titles. He took his teams to 37 bowl games. He spent at total of 61 years in the Penn State football program. During that time he wasn’t only a coach, but a mentor to his players. He was a father figure to some, and taught them not only the game, but also how to be good men in life. More than 250 of his players have gone on to play in the NFL.
Joe was outspoken about ethics in sports, one of the few. His program was never accused of violating any major NCAA rules. He contributed much to the school he loved, not only as a coach, but monetarily also. He affected not only his players, but the fans, the students, the alumni, and anyone who has every watch Penn State football games.
JoePa is a legend. He’s the only college football coach whose name I’ve known since I was a child. The man loved his job. It was his life. And his players, the college, and his fans loved him right back.
I was never a Penn State fan, but I knew who Joe Paterno was. When I was growing up, he was talked about by all the sportscasters. I knew he was the guy with the New York accent, who wore his pants rolled up with white socks. He was the guy with the coke bottle glasses standing on the sidelines. He’s the guy who I saw riding on the shoulders of his players and the fans.
It’s funny how you take for granted that some people will always be there. I could never imagine a Penn State game without Joe, but it did happen. It felt weird. A someone’s missing kind of weird. A ‘is this really happening?’ kind of weird. Now, it will become the new normal.
I didn’t think his death would affect me like it does. There is a sadness I didn’t expect to feel. But, Joe Paterno’s legacy will live on. He leaves much good behind. Rest in peace JoePa. You will be missed.