I grew up in Philadelphia, my parents raised me right, and they taught me many things that I will always remember. I remember that when it came time to decide on colleges there was only one I really wanted to go to, and that was Penn State University. I wasn’t able to go straight to State College, so I went to a college that was 26 miles away. My college on the weekend was known as Suitcase U because everybody was going to State College to party and quite possibly get a lesson from Joe.
My junior year I transferred to Penn State and one of the first things I did was go see Joe Paterno. I was a quarterback in high school, but I wasn’t trying to walk on, I just wanted to meet the man and see if there was something I could do to just be a part of the team. I was 6’1″ but a very meager 145 pounds, not the size to play college football. At the time, Joe was 60 years of age, black hair and full of the same energy he had all his life. I remember we talked about lots of things; education, my family, and the university. The one thing we didn’t talk about was football. He was more interested in knowing about me as a person than my football knowledge or anything like that. In the 30 minutes I spent with him that first day, I not only felt like a welcomed student, I felt like a member of the Paterno family.
I was lucky enough to spend 2 years at Penn State and in those two years on the sidelines, in the locker room, and as a student in his class, I learned so much from this man who I grew to see as close to me as my own dad. In his eyes I was no different than any other student or any other athlete that had come in contact with him. Joe treated everyone with class and respect, and he was a father figure to everyone. Joe wanted to win, but he cared more about teaching his players and his students how to be better adults. He taught skills that would be needed on and off the football field. No one ever questioned it and no one would ever push him away. People were drawn to Mr. Paterno for his caring nature. He wasn’t a big guy, he wouldn’t stand out in a crowd, but when he talked everybody listened. He was a man with a huge heart in which he gave back to Penn State University with his time and money. He never demanded a huge salary, and what money he did get he usually gave back to the university in one way or another. The library is named after him.
I remember when several years ago many sports stations came out talking about how the game had passed him by, that he was no longer in touch with his players, and that he was too old. These same people wanted him to step down. A couple of years later he had Penn State rolling again, proving all of the critics wrong. Joe Paterno, who was so loved by those who knew him or who ever came in contact with him, will be missed. There has been an outpouring of love all this week in and around State College, as Joe Pa was a father figure to many, including me.