Thousands gathered in State College to pay tribute to JoePa

The campus buses flashed “Paterno Proud” on their hood marquees. The creamery showed a spike in sales of its Peachy Paterno ice cream flavor. A young man walked through campus with his pant legs cuffed high and swinging – his skinny ankles showing, just like the coach’s did. The sign outside the Bryce Jordan Center flashed: “Thank you JoePa.”

But inside, Kenny Jackson, a Nittany Lions wide receiver in the 1980s and an assistant coach in the 1990s, said his old coach refused compliments and deflected praise.”Never thought he was the show. But today, my teacher, you have no choice. Today, we are going to show you how much we love you,” said Jackson. Lede after lede in the Daily Collegian student-run newspaper this week described the silence – the remarkable silence of a line of people waiting to file past Paterno’s casket, to shake his children’s hands, to take a picture of his passing funeral hearse. There was silence, too, during the memorial service–in the moments before the coach’s son, Jay Paterno, led the audience in prayer–told them to take the hands of the people to their left and right, and be transported to JoePa’s locker room, a place the old coach thought could solve the biggest conflicts of the world. The locker room wasn’t a holy place for everyone, and when a grand jury’s indictment came down that it was the setting of an alleged sexual assault on a child that Paterno reported to school administrators, but not directly to police, the Penn State Board of Trustees fired the longtime coach, to the ire of students, alumni, and the Paterno family.                Nike founder Phil Knight, was the only speaker to really address the dismissal head-on, to a standing ovation, and hoots from the crowd as they came to their feet. “Whatever the details of the investigation are, this much is clear to me,” said Knight. “If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno’s responsibility.” Knight said Paterno’s refusal to say a bad word about the university in the days after his unceremonial canning was just another example of the behavior that defined him. Then, more applause as Knight lobbed another verbal bomb at the board of trustees. “It does lead me to this question: Who is the real trustee at Penn State University?” he asked. An honors student graduating from the Paterno Fellows program said the coach had made success with honor the standard. The dean of the College of Liberal Arts said the school had reached new heights thanks to Paterno’s interest and support. Former player Jimmy Cefalo told of the grand experiment Paterno was masterminding in his decades at the university. Not just athletes, but student-athletes. Not just college graduates, but men. “He took the sons of coalminers, and he took the sons of steel mill workers, and of farmers in rural Pennsylvania with the idea that we would come together and we would do it the right way. The Paterno way,” said Cefalo.Throughout the service, jumbo screens kept flashing back to Sue Paterno, checking in on her. They showed Sue laughing, Sue crying, Sue looking down in her lap and Sue mouthing “thank you” to the former player behind the podium.   Coach Paterno’s son, Jay Paterno, said players, students, alumni and fans were all an extension of his family.  “One mourner told me Wednesday, he said, ‘you know, your family’s not very good at math.’ He said, ‘your father has millions of children and grandchildren,'” said Paterno.  Sue Paterno and her daughter fumbled for tissues. A male voice cried out, maybe from Section 104, up in the stands somewhere, the familiar chant.We are!

 

Penn State. 

We are! 

Penn State.

We are!

Penn State.

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