The Legend of Happy Valley

Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno

Zach Sepanik

Joe Paterno is a legend. Absolutely nothing can take that away. Yes, nothing.

Even with the longtime Pennsylvania State University head football coach’s death on Jan. 22, the legend of “Joe Pa” will live on.

The death certificate will read that Paterno passed away due to health complications from lung cancer. However, amidst the child sex abuse scandal that rocked Penn State in November, a broken heart was something no treatment could cure and many felt contributed to his downfall.

Bobby Bowden, former Florida State University head football coach, was Paterno’s friend and rival on the field for 50 years. “It seemed like he got hit with everything at one time,” Bowden said. “And many times I was thinking how in the world can he handle all that. I got a feeling a broken heart played a big role in him passing.”

Paterno’s 46 years of roaming the sideline as the Nittany Lions head coach yielded unparalled results, including the most career victories among Division I coaches with 409.

He was also a five-time national coach of the year, took his Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games, winning 24 of them while producing dozens of first-team all-Americans.

Joe Pa paced the sidelines every Saturday in the fall in his thick tinted glasses and rolled up khaki pants, as large a figure as Mount Nittany that overlooks the central Pennsylvania campus.

Yet, maybe the greatest element of Paterno was the fact that he served as more than a football coach. As cliché as it sounds, he was a true father figure, mentor, and friend, evident of those he coached to greater professional heights beyond the field.

The ripple effects of losing such an incredible legend have been felt across the nation. President Barack Obama recognized the impact, calling Paterno’s family and offering his condolences.

An even stronger realization was seeing Jay Paterno tearing up during his tribute to his father on Thursday, saying, “Dad, you won. You did all you could do. You’ve done enough. We all love you. We won. You can go home now.”

Although he has found a better place, Paterno’s home will forever be State College, Pa. As a major benefactor, he and his wife Sue, helped shape Penn St. into a major research institution in his nearly half-century as head coach. His devotion to his school was a prime example of loyalty.

But, just how will Paterno be remembered?

Even though his final months were spent in light of scandal and his deterioration due to lung cancer, he was a man whose passion was his life. He cared for others, his school, the sport of college football, his family and what’s more, he didn’t care about the fame.

The records will stand and the acknowledgement of his accomplishments will never dim. It’s up to you to decide where Paterno stands in your eyes. But his legend is what occurred in football and beyond.

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