The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports Columns

January 22, 2012

Bill Bowman's college football column: Paterno made impact at PSU

My favorite Joe Paterno story was also one of his favorites. Must have been because I heard it at least once a year over the past 15 years.

Joseph Vincent Paterno wasn't supposed to be a football coach. He often talked about how his parents wanted him to be a lawyer and he probably would have been a good one. He got into coaching to pay off the college loans and fell in love with it.

One day he called home and told his parents he was going stay as a college football coach. "My mom was crying, 'What did you go to college for?'" Paterno often recalled. "Then my dad said, 'You better have an impact.'"

Paterno, who died Sunday morning at the age of 85, a little more than two months after he was fired from the position that made him reluctantly famous, certainly had an impact and so, so much more.

"He leaves us with a peaceful mind, comforted by his 'living legacy' of five kids, 17 grandchildren, and hundreds of young men whose lives he changed in more ways than can begin to be counted," read a statement released by the Paterno family.

For some, however, six decades worth of good were forever tarnished with what happened back in 2002 and what has come to light in recent months. Those people might be right. Who am I to tell them they aren't? But Paterno's impact goes endlessly deeper.

I have a book sitting on my desk about Paterno. Actually there are three of them, but one has this quote on the back cover from Paterno. Since reading it I always hoped it would come true, but sadly felt it never would.

"People always come up to me and ask me which one of my football teams was the greatest," Paterno said. "I tell them to ask me 20 years after my last one plays so I can see how many CEOs, teachers, doctors, or lawyers they go on to be."

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