Jay Paterno took some time off from campaigning to speak at THON this afternoon. Paterno had the crowd quieter than I’ve heard in hours as it listened intently, but at times, he had everyone cheering louder than ever — thanks in part to a little light-hearted profanity.
“THON, how you guys doing?” he opened, to thunderous applause. “As you guys may or may not know, I am Jay Paterno.”
He commended Ryan Patrick on a job well done, and even brought a gift for the Executive Director.
“Two years ago, some people from THON left a mug at the statue…You know there used to be a statue over there by the stadium?”
Of course, we knew, and the crowd erupted into loud cheers at that reference. Paterno wanted to return that mug, but since it has spent every day on Jay’s desk for the last two years, he brought Patrick a replacement mug.
“It’s from the 70’s — that’s how old my ass is,” Paterno joked.
Paterno told a story about how he toured Penn State Hershey Children’s hospital a few weeks ago, and on the tour, he found out that 4 out of every 5 children survive during treatment. The BJC erupted at this statistic, but Paterno took a more somber approach, focusing on the 1 out of 5.
“That hit me hard,” he said. “We are going to make it 5 out of every 5 that we save! That’s why we’re here!”
“We are getting closer to getting all the answers. Every year we’re knocking at the door a little more and a little more, and soon Penn State students are going to kick in that damn door, and it’s because of you,” Paterno yelled. “When a child is diagnosed with pediatric cancer, the entire family goes with them, and there’s a lot of darkness. But what you guys are going to do this weekend, and every weekend until there’s a cure, brings light to those families.”
“What I want you to know is, I coached football here for a long time, and my father coached football here for a long time…” Paterno said, again interrupted by cheers. “And no one can ever take that away. We know what the truth is…but there is nothing that happens on this campus, or any campus in the world, that is more important or more meaningful than what you do here, and every Penn Stater is so proud of you.”
Paterno finished with a simple message: “Bust you ass the rest of the way, get it done, and let’s raise $14 million. We Are…Penn State!”
And then he left the stage, with everyone in the room either cheering or speechless.