Memories of JoePa
Over his 46-year career with Penn State University, JoePa mentored thousands and thousands of boys and turned them into men, men I am proud to know and would trust with the lives of my family.
Michael Zordich, Shane Conlan, Todd Blackledge and many more are some of the finest individuals I have ever been around and every one of them point to Joe Paterno with love, respect and gratefulness for teaching them so much about football and life. Knowing these men makes me see why Joe Paterno was so revered.
Joe Paterno was a great football coach. But what he accomplished off the field was far more prodigious than what he accomplished on the field. Winning more games than any other college football coach that has ever picked up a whistle pales in comparison to the lives he touched and the boys he helped turn into men. And this is the sad irony of this beloved man:
He didn't do enough.
Where he helped so many boys turn into square, strong men of conviction, he failed one boy in particular. Joe Pa's "greatest sadness" was that he wished he'd done more - for one…more…boy.
I refuse to remember Joe Paterno for this failure to do more; the reality of my Penn State brothers won't let me. Just because he failed one boy in particular cannot and will not blot out the countless boys he served so well. It's not an either or situation. Everybody's life cannot be boiled down to word association.
I'll remember JoePa as a great football coach that was just a man. No matter how good JoePa was, no matter how many men he helped, no matter how many millions he gave…he was just a man, subject to the same flaws and frailties we all are.
Knowing I am chief of all sinners, a man saved by grace, I will never judge Joe Paterno for not doing more. I am able to discern what is right and wrong - to judge - but I will never bring condemnation with that judgment.
Unfortunately, the Board of Trustees did not have that luxury. They did what they had to do.
In the winter of 1988 Joe Paterno was sitting in the living room of the home I grew up in; he was recruiting my younger brother, Dale. I listened to this man speak of his love - Penn State University and Penn State football - and almost wished my brother Dale would go play for him. Even though I played - and proudly so - for West Virginia University! He spoke eloquently, sincerely and powerfully of what he would do for Dale and what the university would do for Dale.
JoePa's recruiting strength was rooted in his honesty and iconic reputation. He was one of the greatest college football coaches in the country and he wanted my brother to play for him. It was a powerful combination, a one, two that almost won the day (Dale played for West Virginia).
After saying his good-byes, telling my mother how much he enjoyed her sticky-rolls, he told Dale he would be in touch and got into his car with Dale's high-school coach in the middle of a classic Buffalo snowstorm. He backed out of our driveway and into our mailbox that was partially buried by a snow bank. The mailbox bent backwards and JoePa drove away - oblivious to what he had done.
And that's how I'll remember him: a great football coach that was just a man.