Sunday Night Nitt Picks

It's really a shame this didn't get more media attention, but this weekend the college football Hall of Fame welcomed one of the greatest coaches of all time when our own Joe Paterno became the second active coach to ever be welcomed to the Hall. And of course, Joe was his usually witty and entertaining self.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno helped a lot of players make it into the College Football Hall of Fame. He counts former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie among them.

"We made Flutie. I told him that 10 times," Paterno said Saturday evening at a news conference before the pair and 18 others were enshrined. "He came to our place and nobody knew who he was and he ended up throwing for 400 yards.

"But we beat 'em," Paterno added with a smile.

Predictably, there are a ton of stories out there focusing on Joe's status after 2008, but kudos go to Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle who was the only person that managed to score a one-on-one interview in the legend's office. And as Scarella puts it, Joe is "sometimes reflective, sometimes fiery, sometimes funny and always interesting." Here are some of my favorite exchanges.

On the status of the Penn State football program.

I think we're fine. Three years ago, we were two seconds away from an unbeaten season. It all depends on what people expect. You have some guys out there, as I call them, the Web site Mob, with no names who complain.

 Friggin' website mob jerks. Hey...wait a minute...

Q: I want to ask you something about the five players who were suspended from spring practice. What do they. . . .

A: Do you want to talk about football or not?

Q: What do they have to do to become eligible again?

A: They have to do better with their grades. Period.

Nice save. Most reporters would be buckling at the knees at this point, but Scarcella keeps going. If the reporter had done his homework he would already know those players were all reinstated after spring practice with the exception of Phil Taylor who was suspended through the summer session by Judicial Affairs.

I found the following exchange particularly interesting. The emphasis is mine.

Q: Would it be fair to say that you go by feel when it comes to picking a starting quarterback?

A: When you've been in it long enough, there's always something that sparks you to say this is the best thing for this football team. I think maybe I made a mistake last year. Jay (Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno) kept talking about playing Clark a little more to change things. I turned him down on that because I didn't want to get into where (Anthony) Morelli was looking over his shoulder. I didn't think that would be good for the kind of kid that Morelli is. This year it might be a whole different situation.

After week after week of listening to Paterno tell us Morelli was a tough, smart quarterback this is the first time I can recall him ever suggesting #14 may have struggled with confidence issues. Then for Paterno to suggest in his last sentence that "this year it might be a whole different situation" suggests to me our offense will be much better and much more consistent this year. Giddyup!

Speaking of Quarterbacks

The Carslise Sentinel has a fascinating interview with Daryll Clark which is an absolute must read. Again, here are some of my favorite excerpts.

“Jay (Paterno) has never been a person that steered me wrong,” the quarterback said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for him (and Joe) as far as what they did recruiting (me). (Jay) and Joe sat there right in front of my parents and said, ‘His grades in high school, I’m not ashamed to say, weren’t good. His grades don’t show what type of person we think he is, so we’re going to take a chance on him.’ That lit me up. There were a lot of schools that were like, ‘Hey, we’re not going to take a chance on this guy.’

“They did and I’m glad they did. Jay and Joe have been a very important part of my life.”

Clark eventually got his grades up to NCAA standards and re-upped with the Nittany Lions.

We give Jay a lot of grief around here, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact he is Joe Paterno's son, so you know that behind the play book full of four yard out patterns there must be a decent man with some redeeming character qualities.

Clark said he talks to former Penn State quarterback Robinson at least “once a week.”

The two have remained close since 2005. Robinson, now with the San Francisco 49ers, and Clark have been mentioned in the same breath by fans and media alike.

What’s not to compare?

They both offer punishing running styles, both have muscular builds and are both a good blend of brash, humble and confident.

What no one yet knows is whether or not Clark can follow in Robinson’s footsteps as a leader.

But he will tell you, just a few weeks outside of preseason camp, that he will do whatever it takes to achieve Robinson-like status around Happy Valley.

“He lets me know how tough it’s going to be,” Clark said, “how tough it can get and the things you have to do to remain humble and fight out of a funk if you happen to deal with one. There’s people that don’t want you to play. There’s people that want you to play. There’s people that don’t think you can play. You can’t really play into that.

“Mike reaked of leadership and I think that’s one thing that really stood out about him. He took command of the offense, at the line he’s making checks, he let everyone know that when the time gets tough, he (was) going to get through them. That’s what I am working on now to get that trust.”

Anybody ever recall Anthony Morelli saying he called a former PSU quarterback, or any quarterback for that matter, to ask for advice? Anyone? The fact that Clark looks up to Michael Robinson, talks to him regularly, tries to learn from him, and ultimately wants to follow in his footsteps as a team leader bodes well for our team.

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