STATE COLLEGE (KDKA) – The Paterno legacy stretches beyond the Penn State University campus and beyond college football.
He’s one of Pennsylvania’s most iconic figures.
Legendary, larger-than-life, greatness are overused words, but not so, in the case of Joseph Vincent Paterno, who passed away Sunday at age 85.
His legacy includes the most victories by a Division-I coach, most seasons as coach, five undefeated teams, two national championships and the College Football Hall of Fame.
“You never know how good you can be, unless you try. If somebody had told me that, when I started to coach, that I would be around this long, or that I would have as much good luck as I’ve had, I would have said, you’re crazy,” Paterno said.
However, stats and wins alone don’t define a man.
The Italian-American, Brooklyn-born coach served in the Army and played football for Brown.
He began as an assistant coach at Penn State in1950 and had an old-school philosophy.
“I was determined. I was going to do the best I could, and I enjoyed it. I walked away at night and when I went to bed, I felt I gave it the best shot I had,” Paterno said.
Paterno went on to meet his wife, Susan Pohland, on the Penn State campus, who was an English literature student.
They married in 1962 and have five children and 17 grandchildren. The Paternos lived in the same home in State College for their entire marriage.
Paterno’s game-day image is iconic with his thick glasses, rolled-up pants and white socks.
However, his legacy is so much more than football.
He made great contributions to the academic life at Penn State and had a record-setting graduation rate for his players:
“Do things the right way. Have some goals and you’ll end up, at least you’ll have a chance to do some things well,” Paterno said.
Paterno’s final months were filled with controversy that stained his reputation.
The Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal led to Paterno’s firing. It prompted riots on campus and outrage from Penn State alumni.
Despite the scandal, Paterno will still go down as one of the greatest college coaches of all-time.
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