How do you say good bye to someone you never met, from a school you never attended, who nevertheless had a profound impact on your life? That is the struggle with which I find myself this morning, as I try to muddle through the work day. In an effort to salvage some productivity today, I am writing this letter to Joe Paterno, thanking him for making a difference in my life. My only regret is that I never had the forethought to send this to him before he passed.
Dear Coach Paterno,
I've never met you and I did not attend Penn State. Yet, I still want to thank you for the impact that you have made on my life. I have been a fan of yours and Penn State since the age of 8, when I watched Penn State beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. At that time, my hometown NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles, were not very good. So, Penn State was the only decent football for me to watch. Over the course of the next three decades, I have continued to watch Penn State Football. However, only in the past 5 or 6 years, have I realized that, even though I never attended a class at Penn State, you were still teaching me, through football. You were teaching me about being a man. Not in the biological sence, but in all aspects that make that word, man, mean something. You were showing us, all along, that you could succeed beyond all wildest expectations without selling your soul in the process. You were teaching us about paying attention to details, caring about people beyond what they could do for you and conducting ourselves with honor and dignity. You were teaching us that kindness does not equal weakness and you were teaching us that, if we just persevered, we could be better people than we ever thought possible.
You have now passed, gone no doubt to a better place. I'm quite certain that St. Peter's only criticism/question was why you didn't play action on 4th and goal against Alabama. Nevertheless, I am glad that you were able to go home, surrounded by the people you loved most. Just know that the people that love you go far beyond the hospital room, the football team and the university you devoted your life to. You were everyone's wise, loveable old grandpop and saying goodbye to you hurts as much as it did to say goodbye to my own grandpop. So, rest easy Coach. May God Bless You and Keep You. May God shine his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Rest In Peace, Coach