Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Legend Joe Paterno 1926-2012

Today the sports community and people in general lost a great man.  Joe Paterno passed away due to complications from lung cancer and it's treatment.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the Paterno family in this most difficult time in any persons life.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926, Joe Paterno lifted himself up in his life and became a legend.  He served in the Army in the last year of World War II then accepted a scholarship to Brown University in 1946.  He played quarterback and cornerback for Brown head coach Charles Engle from 1946 to 1949, the same head coach that drastically altered Joe Paterno's life in 1950 when he offered Paterno an assistant coaching position on his staff at Penn State University.  Joe Paterno accepted the offer and in doing so passed on his plans to go to law school.

Paterno served 16 seasons as Engle's assistant coach before succeeding him in 1966 as PSU's new head coach.  He would remain in that position until the dramatic end to his career in the fall of 2011.  In 55 seasons as head coach Joe Paterno became the face of the institution.  In athletics, his roll in the growing of the football program is evidenced in the expansion of Beaver Stadium.  Built in 1960 with a capacity of 46,284 increase to the 106,572 it holds today.  In education Paterno tried and succeeded in infusing academia into his football players, graduating 78% of them, 11 points higher then the national average of 67%.  He chose discipline ahead of wins, he would bench players that were not living up to standards off the field and hold all of his players accountable as seen when he made the entire team clean the stadium after every home game after an off field incident.

His stats are beyond impressive.  He has a record of 409-136-3, those 409 wins are an NCAA Division 1-A record.  He has a 24-12-1 bowl game record, those 24 bowl wins are also a record.  Under Joe Paterno Penn State won 2 national titles, 1982 and 1986 as well as three big ten titles, 1994, 2005 and 2008.  In 2007 he was inducted into the the College Football Hall of Fame.  During his tenure at PSU Paterno had ample opportunities to leave, being offered the head coaching position of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969, as well as being heavily pursued by the New York Giants in the 1970's and 1980's.  He chose to stay put and continue building not only a football program but a university. 

The Penn State community owes a great debt to Joe Paterno.  Him and his wife have donated more then $4 million dollars to Penn State academics.  The Paterno's have donated to various organizations over the years and never for recognition or applause.  He has affected more lives then we know and his history and legacy will continue to inspire for generations to come.  

His coaching wins and academic enforcements and donations have helped make Penn State what it is today.  Ending his tenure as head coach late in the season this past fall must have been one of the most difficult decisions PSU has ever had to make.  To some the legacy of Joe Paterno has been severely tarnished over the past season as a result of the Sandusky scandal, but in my eyes that's just not true.  No one knows for certain what Paterno knew or didn't know as well as what he did or didn't do.  In the eyes of some he didn't do enough, to his own recognition he stated he didn't, but when horrible events happen what is considered enough?  Joe Paterno will be remembered for his football legacy and more importantly for the man that he was, not for a scandal.  His failing health and passing was caused by medical complications, but as a good friend posted on Facebook earlier, the true cause may have been a broken heart.  Rest in Peace:  Joe Paterno 1926-2012.

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