TAMPA, Fla. - Through the years, my only contact with Joe Paterno was when Penn State would come to Tampa to play in the Outback Bowl.
So, my observations of Joe are few. All of them when he was in uniform, acting as head coach.
However, I will share what I saw.
My first impression brought me back to my youth and how my coaches handled our team.
There was structure. There was purpose.
There was pride. You could see it in the walk of the players to and from practice.
Very little time wasted.
No room for undisciplined players.
No music blaring from the locker rooms. Just the sound of cleats crossing the street to the field.
I noticed that all the players we interviewed, not one had long hair.
All groomed, you now, the clean cut all America look.
The hair part was a bit different in my day. We mostly had crew cuts.
The Penn State players could put sentences together. Intelligent young men.
While some colleges were looking to modernize their uniforms and colors, Penn State did not.
Stuck in time, Paterno's time.
When Joe would attend news conferences, ah, that's when you learned a bit more about the man.
Even to the day a year ago, when he lost to Florida in the Outback Bowl, Paterno's style remained constant.
He would think before answering questions. He could be funny, he could be quick to the point.
Someone would inevitably bring up the question about his race with Bobby Bowden for the most wins in Division One football, chasing Eddie Robinson.
He would awe shucks it, but you knew it was his own personal game which kept him young, kept him going, kept his passion alive for a game he coached for a very long time.
Did Coach Joe have an ego? Heck yes.
He tempered it such a way you viewed it as purely old school confidence.
Kind of funny. I never played under Joe Paterno, but I feel I have.
Perhaps he had far more reaching influence on people and coaches than one realizes.
My coaches seemed to carry themselves in a Paterno type way.
Maybe it was just " the way" back then.
What I am so torn about in this writing is that we will likely never know exactly how culpable Joe Paterno was in the coverup of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
For all that he did on one end of the spectrum, this moment in time will forever be linked to his legacy.
It could simply be a message that even those who spend a lifetime of achievement make mistakes.
As idolized as he was at Penn State, Joe Paterno was human after all.
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