The public memorial for former Penn State coach Joe Paterno wrapped up a little while ago, extending over two hours at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Among the numerous speakers at the memorial that spanned Paterno’s five decades as a coach were former players — Charlie Pittman representing the 1960′s, Jimmy Cefalo representing the 1970′s, Todd Blackledge representing the 19080′s, Christian Marrone representing 1990′s, Michael Robinson representing the 2000′s and Michael Mauti representing the current team — Nike co-founder Phil Knight and son Jay Paterno.
“Up until today I considered being the quarterback of that 82 national championship team, Joe’s first, to be the greatest honor of my life,” Blackledge said. “Today that has been replaced.”
The former players told stories of Paterno’s “team first” mentality, or how the life lessons the coach preached began to make sense after they played their final down for the Nittany Lions.
“Joseph Vincent Paterno was a great football coach. But his life can never, ever be measured by wins and championships because to do so would be a great injustice,” Marrone, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense, said at the conclusion of his speech.
Others cracked jokes and did their best Paterno impersonation.
“Hey your dad used to act like he was tough, too, trying to fight people all the time,” Mauti said Paterno told him after Mauti got in a fight during practice.
But all those who spoke had a common theme: to them, Paterno stood for honesty.
“He taught us how to compete with honor, how to compete with integrity,” Blackledge said.
Robinson echoed that sentiment.
“He didn’t lie to me. He didn’t lie to me at all.”
The honor and integrity Paterno preached for decades has come into question in recent months with the Jerry Sandusky scandal, with some believing that Paterno did not capitalize on an opportunity to do more than what was legally required of him. Poking the coals of Paterno’s role in the controversy was Knight, who said very strongly ”There is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation. Not in Joe Paterno’s response.
“Who is the real trustee at Penn State University?”
Those words received one of the loudest ovations of the day.
But the stir of the Sandusky scandal was temporary; the memorial concluded with an eloquent speech by Jay Paterno.
“Among the things he accomplished in his life, it was the games he won that counted the least,” Jay Paterno explained. “The smallest acts of a father, a coach, a mentor can echo across decades.”
Jay said the last words to his father were ”Dad, you won. You did all you could do. You’ve done enough. We all love you. You won. You can go home now.”