A Man To Remember and Honor… Monday Cup O’Chiefs

From Mobile, Alabama

Much has been written and said about the life of Joe Paterno since Sunday morning when he passed away in State College, Pennsylvania.

There is so much to say about Joe Pa; 85 years of living, 61 years at Penn State and 46 years as head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions – it’s quite a legacy.

And there’s the last four months of gut wrenching pain and anger over the Jerry Sandusky situation that ended up costing Paterno his job and quite possibly cut short his life.

Should you be looking for an indictment of Paterno, his life and actions, then move along because it’s not going to come here. As heinous as the Sandusky case was, is and will be, it does not wipe away the good things that Joe Paterno did in his life.

I’m not talking about the millions that he and his wife gave to Penn State. I’m not talking about the record number of 409 victories, or the national championships or the conference titles.

If you want to know the greatness of the man and coach, one need simply look at the young men who played football for him.

No other college coach had more players that spent time on the Chiefs roster than Joe Paterno.

There have been 17 Penn State products that wore the red and gold in the last 52 seasons, and only one was not a product of Paterno the head coach – defensive end Hatch Rosdahl, who played in 28 games with the Chiefs over three seasons (1964-66). Paterno was an assistant at the time Rosdahl was in school.

The other 16 were Joe’s boys and I knew them all. Some like David Macklin and Frank Case weren’t around long enough to leave an impression. But among the others were players like Todd Blackledge, Troy Drayton and Bobby Engram – mature, well-spoken, smart players and men that may not have been at the top of their game when they were with the Chiefs, yet they proved to be wonderful people.

Same for Charlie Getty, Tamba Hali, Scott Radecic, Dave Szott, Larry Johnson – OK, not even Joe Pa was perfect. Those first five names were nothing but class and remain so in everything they do.

To understand what Paterno meant to those players and thousands of others, follow this story that appeared over the weekend in a Pennsylvania newspaper. Several years ago, Paterno was in his campus office when the door opened and Hali walked in. Already out of school and playing with the Chiefs, Hali returned to State College and took a moment to say hello to his head coach.

Here’s how the story played out from the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader:

“What the devil are you doing here?” Paterno asked.

Hali replied simply that it was his team’s bye week.

“Whaddya want?” Paterno joked. “Every time I see you, you want something.”

“I don’t want anything,” Hali answered. “I just want to tell you I miss you.”

Paterno finished the story, pausing to compose himself.

“Now,” he said finally. “Does that mean something?”

The greatness of Paterno could be seen on Sunday at the Senior Bowl. The All-Star game officials asked two of the four Penn State players that are in Mobile for the game to step forward and talk about their coach. They had all woken up Sunday morning to their cell phones blowing up with text messages from family, friends and teammates.

“I’m from Texas and I went all the way up to Penn State just because I knew I would grow more as a player on the field and a man playing for Joe Paterno than any other school,” said CB D’Anton Lynn, whose father Johnny Lynn played in the NFL and has been an assistant coach with the New York Jets. “He proved me right. The lessons that he taught me on and off the field are lessons that I’ll carry on for the rest of my life.

“What he did for not only myself, but my teammates and that school, I don’t think there will ever be another one like him.”

No script, no teleprompter, no unseen force whispering words in his ear. It was D’Anton Lynn speaking from his heart.

DE Jack Crawford wanted to remember the fun things that came with playing for Paterno.

“I remember some of the squad meetings where he would call guys out,” Crawford said. “There were some teammates that I had who just made some stupid decisions and he would call them out in front of the whole team. He was trying to make a point, and sometimes he would get going and it was just funny.

“He always made his point.”

Joe Paterno was not a perfect man and he did not churn out perfect players who went on to become perfect men. Again, see Larry Johnson. Still, he lived a remarkable life and achieved remarkable success on so many different levels. He helped shape hundreds of lives that have gone on to shape hundreds, even thousands more.

For that we say bravo Joe Pa, bravo for a life well lived. May you rest in the peace that was so scarce in your final days.

9 Responses to “A Man To Remember and Honor… Monday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • January 23, 2012  - johnfromfairfax says:

    One of the last of the legendary coaches. The loyalty of his players to him attest to the impact he had over a long illustrious career. It was a shame how it ended. It was also ironic that In the end the loyalty he felt for Penn State may have been his undoing. RIP Jo Pa.

  • January 23, 2012  - Jason says:

    I honestly feel that it was not the lung cancer that did him in, but the mental and emotional anguish he has endured over the last 3 months. While I am sure he wishes this hadn’t played out like it did, he deserved much better in the end. RIP Joe Pa.

  • January 23, 2012  - Rick says:

    Um, sweeping child rape under the rug trumps all, unless you’re a homer of biblical proportion. He got off easy.

  • January 23, 2012  - the other dave says:

    Rick is right.

  • January 23, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    I’ve disliked Penn State since the 1969 Orange Bowl. Kansas vs Penn St. I was in Philly waiting to be discharged from the Navy. Of course I had to bet on KU. $25. Last play of the game Penn St failed to make an extra point. KU wins. But they got flagged for TWELVE men on the field. Retry and Penn St wins. Come to think about it maybe I should of disliked KU. That said, Rick is wrong. Paterno, from what I’ve read, reported the incident to two school officals, including the campus police chief. If he had done more, like going to local police, he would probably been fired for jumping chain of command. Come on, it was not like he was a witness to the crime. They should of let him retire like he was going to do. Now I dislike Penn St for new reason.

  • January 23, 2012  - the other dave says:

    Rick is still right. Joe Pa owned that institution and there is no way he would have been fired for going to the police. And so what if he had been? I would be damned proud to be fired for protecting anyone, especially kids.

  • January 23, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    other dave – OK, maybe you and Rick have a point. There are probably 22 different ways of looking at this. None very happy. One is that Paterno did not play with little boys; he built men. Worse thing he did was have bad judgement on who worked for him. Bottom line he did an excellent job for a very, very long time and he’ll always be tarnished. Pete Rose earned his astrick after his name. Joe didn’t. RIP.

  • January 23, 2012  - JB says:

    Well gee Bob there is that pesky enabling a vicious, sick, leering sexual abuser and rapist of boys. But I know you sportswriter types have been trained to even though you heard the slapping sounds in the shower and saw Sandusky behind the boy who was pressed against the wall…to well it’s Joe Pa and Penn St. and and and …so do you think the rape victim kids are impressed with Joe Pa’s W-L record or his wife’s charitable record?. So do you think these kids wake up at night and say damn! My ass hurts and I’m totally humiliated and exploited but what a great Big Ten program? Hell has special place for these get a pass by sportswriter types. They have a suite waiting for you Vick…..

  • January 25, 2012  - cychief24 says:

    Paterno knew, he did the bare legal minimum about it, saw that his “bosses” swept it under the rug, and (maybe worst of all) allowed Sandusky around the facilities enabling him to continue his abuse of children.
    Except for what I put in parenthesis, those are all facts.

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