Beyond the Bison: A Life Well Lived

By Julian Dorey

Columnist

Some of us are college football fans. Others casually watch. Others don’t watch at all. But just about all of us have heard of Joe Paterno.

On Jan. 22, the world lost a great one. Never again shall we see an old-school, long-reigning, dynamic—yet so humble–football coach like Joe Paterno. Paterno was more than a football coach. He was an idol.

For 62 years—46 as head coach of Penn State’s football team—the Italian kid from Brooklyn aged with success and grace in the farmland of Pennsylvania. Among that farmland, Paterno built a utopia—a place where young and old could assemble every Saturday to escape from whatever stresses their lives brought upon them.

“Happy Valley,” as Penn State has now long been known, became one of the few football meccas in America.  It is one of the rare situations in life when a triumph can be completely attributed to one person.  Paterno single-handedly built a respected and revered program by marching a selfless, diligent and proud football team out of the tunnel every Saturday.

For all 46 years.

After a successful life living among the cornfields, Joe Paterno went out the same way he lived: without a complaint.

During this sad time, some have chosen to refocus on the recent tragedy that occurred at Penn State—and unfortunately, they’ve chosen to rehash empty claims that Joe Paterno was the man at fault.

In the words of Nike CEO, Phil Knight: “If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in [the] investigation—and not in Joe Paterno’s response.”

So in this one last nostalgic piece about the old ball coach, I’ll leave the “scandal” at that.  Never before has a man been so undeserving of what he got—and so graceful in how he handled it.

Joe Paterno accomplished many great things on the football field.  He won two national titles, he sent hundreds of players to the NFL, he created never-before-seen offensive and defensive play packages and he took the Penn State program to the pinnacle of excellence.

But nothing can compare the lasting impact he has left on so many off the field.  Penn Staters and non-Penn Staters alike have been witnesses to that for the last half-century.  Paterno touched more people than most could touch in a billion lifetimes.

Being a good—great—person was what consumed Joe’s life—not winning another football game.

That’s a beautiful thing.

 

Joseph Vincent Paterno

1926-2012

 

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