Today, we lost one of the best coaches to ever step onto the football field. Having an illustrious career in college football and positively affecting many lives, the man known as “JoePa” will go down as a great coach and a great man.
After 61 years of coaching at Penn State and an abrupt ending to his career, Joseph Vincent Paterno passed away at the age of 85.
On November 18, Paterno’s son revealed his father was battling lung cancer. The ex-Nitanny Lions coach fought this cancer for two months and went into the hospital on January 13.
Because many had high regards for Paterno, people were startled with the sudden downfall of the coach the past year. In the span of a single week this past November, the Penn State coach’s name inundated the media world because of breaking news that he failed to report to the police a 2002 sex scandal between one of his other coaches – Jerry Sandusky – and a young child. Sandusky was later charged with sexually assaulting 10 boys in 15 years.
Even though Paterno had a tainted ending to his career at Penn State, the accomplishments he achieved while coaching in Pennsylvania can’t and won’t be forgotten. Holding the division I record for total wins (409 games) and holding more bowl victories (24) than any other coach in any division, Paterno instilled a winning mindset for all his ball-clubs every single year. Out of his 46 years of head coaching, Paterno only had five seasons with a lossing record.
Joe Paterno brought Penn State two national championships while being the head coach. In 1982, Penn State took down the Georgia Bulldogs, 27-23, at the Sugar Bowl. Four years later in the Fiesta Bowl, the Lions defeated the Miami Hurricanes, 14-10.
Never changing the school uniforms since arriving to Pennsylvania, Paterno also never changed his approach to coaching. In a time with high-powered offensive games and flashy play-calling, Paterno stuck to his conservative coaching roots. No matter the size of the game, he relied on his disciplined defense, a strong rushing attack, and solid field position. I would say it might have worked for him.
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush sent his condolences.
“I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Joe Paterno. He was an outstanding American who was respected not only on the field of play but in life generally – and he was, without a doubt, a true icon in the world of sports. I was proud that he was a friend of mine. Barbara and I send our condolences to his devoted wife Suzanne and to his wonderful family.”
President Bush couldn’t be more right with his statement regarding Joe Paterno. Even though he brought many wins to the program, this wasn’t his primary focus for these young men. He wanted as many of his players to graduate from Penn State as possible while also playing well on the field. Last year, Paterno had 49 academic All-Americans, ranking them the third-highest among colleges in the FBS. 47 of these men played under Paterno.
Before being hired as an assistant coach for the Nittany Lions in 1950, Paterno played quarterback and cornerback for Brown University. During his tenure at Brown, he set a defensive record with 14 interceptions. Graduating from law school in 1950, his father hoped he would one day become president.
The man that referred to Twitter as “Twittle-do, Twittle-dee” will most certainly be missed. Many of the players that passed through his football program left with a positive opinion regarding their head coach. One of Paterno’s many great linebackers – Paul Posluszny – who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars, discussed Paterno’s impact. “He teaches us about really just growing up and being a man. Besides the football, he’s preparing us to be good men in life.”
Even though the recent scandal will put a blemish on Paterno’s career, I believe he still should be regarded as having a positive career. To stick with one program for so long and to recruit the correct way in a time where sanction after sanction have been handed out can’t go unnoticed. The entire Penn State University held Paterno close to their hearts – why else would students rush to his house in support of him before the entire scandal story was even one-hundred percent clear?
It will be very difficult to find another coach in the past, present, or future that has the dedication and demeanor Paterno holds with the college football community. You could say he was a once in a lifetime coach, but I believe no other lifetime will get a coach like him.
Rest in Peace, Joe Paterno.
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