It wasn’t the easiest thing for me to do, going up to State College, Pa. to say one last goodbye to Coach Paterno. The best part about being back for Joe’s homegoing was seeing something that may never happen again. There were more than 800 of his former players there, from more eras than I could count. I stopped at five.
It was amazing to see so many that I grew up watching and so many that I’ve watched since I left.
I must admit I’m glad so many of us were there, because I was no longer alone with my feelings.
Speaking with stars such as Franco Harris, Bruce Clark, Charlie Pittman, Shane Conlan, Ki-Jana Carter, O.J. McDuffie, Trey Bauer and so many more helped reconfirm what I had been feeling about everything.
To hear the wisdom of their words assured me that while Penn State is in a very dark time right now, it is still the program I grew to know, a place where so many extraordinary people came from, taught by an extraordinary man. Ultimately that’s why I went to Penn State. I knew in my heart that the tradition and legacy that existed there was something that I had to be a part of, I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to be one of those guys I watched with my dad every Saturday. I wanted to say I played for Joe Paterno, and I did.
I will never be able to put into words the feelings I have when Penn State lettermen greet me as a respected brother. To think that my voice and my words hold meaning to them blows my mind.
My conversations with them made every hard workout, every freezing cold practice and even the current confusion surrounding our great institution bearable, because we know we are in this together.
I’m confident now more than ever that the greatness of those men in that lettermen’s lounge on Tuesday afternoon will indeed be a major part of finding a way to make things right. They already have begun to plans to restore the pride of a school that had a great visionary who created that pride in the first place.
I left State College with the firm understanding that we all have a duty in all of this. And it is to stay together and figure this out. Together.
Just like Joe, we can work tirelessly to build Penn State into a better institution for learning. That’s what Joe would have wanted, that his hard work and dedication to the school would continue through the people he touched the most.