Joe Paterno passed away at 9:25 a.m. ET on Sunday morning, and in the moments following the terrible news fans and news sources all over the internet responded with a massive outpouring of love and respect for the former Penn State head football coach. His death was confirmed in a statement released by his family to the Associated Press. Penn State was understandably among the first to react to the news, releasing a long statement speaking highly of the positive impact Paterno made on the State College community.
Paterno passionately and vigorously served the Penn State football program and the university with principle, distinction and success with honor since matriculating to State College in 1950 as a motivated and enthusiastic 23-year-old with Rip Engle, his head coach at Brown University. After 16 years as an assistant coach under Engle, Paterno was named Penn State's 14th head football coach on February 19, 1966 when Engle retired.
The New York Times made mention of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal that resulted in Paterno's dismissal in November. There is no denying how Joe Pa would become synonymous with the school itself, however.
During his 46 years as head coach, as he paced the sidelines in his thick tinted glasses, indifferent to fashion in his white athletic socks and rolled-up, baggy khaki pants, Paterno seemed as much a part of the Penn State landscape as Mount Nittany, overlooking the central Pennsylvania campus known as Happy Valley.
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports highlights Paterno's impact on the college football landscape itself. Over 46 years as the head coach of the Nittany Lions, Paterno managed to become one of the game's progressive voices while still holding onto the now quaint ideals of amateur athletics.
This will be forever the battle over Joe Paterno's legacy. A life of soaring impact, of bedrock values, of generations and generations as a symbol of how to live life to its fullest.
The Sandusky case cracked that for some. Ended it. Not for all, though.
Paterno reached too many, taught too many, inspired too many. And for years and seasons, for decades and generations to come, those that drew from his wisdom will pass it on and on. That will be his most lasting legacy.
Stewart Mandel at Sports Illustrated, meanwhile, writes about the irreparable damage that the Sandusky scandal did to Paterno's reputation, and the eerie similarities with the passing of another legend.
Though he wouldn't say so openly, Paterno had long feared suffering the same fate as Bear Bryant, the revered Alabama coach who died of a heart attack four weeks after coaching his last game. (Eerily, Thursday is the 30th anniversary of Bryant's death.) Paterno couldn't imagine a life without football, and when he was finally confronted with that dreaded reality, it was not of his own volition. Even worse, as that now infamous comment issued from his doorstep indicated, Paterno brought about his own undoing.
Finally, there are the reactions from the Penn State community itself, of which you'll find many at the SB Nation blog Black Shoe Diaries.
I posted this in a thread back in November, and it's more true today than ever
Penn State made me who I am today; seldom a day goes by when I don't think about how lucky I am to have gone to such a great school.
Penn State is what it is in large part because of Joe. He inspires so many of us, as students and graduates, to pursue greatness in his mold, through dedication to hard work, integrity, and realizing our potential.
Penn State still means just as much to me as it always has. So does Joe.
Penn State will remain great because we will continue to make it great. I will continue to make it great because Joe will always inspire me to.
So thank you, Joe, from the bottom of my heart. We are Penn State, and we always will be.
- commenter newenglandnittanylion
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