The sideline of a college football field is not a safe place to be for an 84-year-old man with a history of injuries.
As difficult as that fact may be to stomach, Penn State coach Joe Paterno is slowly beginning to accept it as a reality.
On Saturday the college coaching legend had another sideline scare only two months after he sustained right shoulder and pelvis injuries during a collision with a player in training camp. Those injuries forced JoePa to start the season in the press box, which is where he returned after halftime of the Nittany Lions’ 13-3 win over Iowa on Saturday.
A player “almost ran over me,” Paterno said after the game. “I had to make a couple quick moves to get out of the way.
“I was afraid ... I just don’t want to be in the way. I don’t want those kids to be looking around to see where I am. So I told them at halftime ‘You guys are doing all right, let’s turn it up one notch and I’ll get out of here and get out of your hair.’ And they did.”
Despite a string of bumps, bruises and breaks sustained while patrolling the sideline, Paterno has always been stubborn — and understandably so — to leave his spot.
Before the team’s season opener, he told reporters: “Being upstairs is for the birds. I like to be on the sidelines and get a feel for things and be able to grab a kid and tell him certain things.”
But JoePa has learned nearly as much as he’s taught in 45 years of coaching, and the latest lesson — should he chose to accept it — may be the one that keeps him coaching until he’s ready to put down the clipboard.
Paterno was one of the many coaches to reflect on the passing of Raiders owner Al Davis over the weekend. As it turns out, Davis once offered Paterno a job with the Raiders, but JoePa had a sneaking suspicion their two personalities might not mesh well on the same coaching staff.
“When Al got the job, he called me to be his offensive coordinator,” Paterno told the York Daily Record. “I told Al, ‘You and I would have trouble getting along, because I am smarter than you are.’”