Forever In Your Debt
“Your candle burned out long before your legend ever did.” – Candle in the Wind, 1973
As I walked down College Avenue after hearing the news, the streets blanketed with fresh snow, I couldn’t help but break down and reflect as ‘Hail to the Lion’ chimed down from the Old Main Bell tower.
This is the place where I fell in love for the first time. This is the place where I met my best friends. This is the place where I discovered the greatest feeling of pride that anyone could possibly imagine.
And, I owe it all to Joe Paterno.
I never played football. I never went through a Joe Paterno run practice. We met quite a few times, but never for more than a minute or two. Yet, the man played a major part in making me who I am today.
When college football changed, only one man held true to his ideals. As teams began to emphasize winning and profits more than the concept of a student-athlete, only Paterno refused to waver.
As much as losing bothered Paterno, he knew it never really mattered. We all knew. What mattered was creating an environment where education and sportsmanship could prosper in unison along with winning games. The Grand Experiment worked, and it worked for more than sixty years. College football will never see something so divine again, and it’s a shame.
He had one goal that defined an entire life — to make Penn State the best it could possibly be. He succeeded, and he succeeded in a way that will forever be impossible to measure.
Even in his darkest days, after being thrown to the curb by the University he dedicated an entire life to building, it became known that he donated $100,000 to Penn State weeks after his termination. But who was surprised? Loyalty and compassion are the character traits I value most – Joe taught me that.
The events I’ve witnessed over the last 79 days will stay with me for the rest of my life. Things I never thought were possible became reality. The human condition is a funny thing when you think about it. Through Joe Paterno, I have witnessed the highest and lowest points of the human spirit. The greatest joys and deepest sorrows were reflected through him, and from those experiences, I will never be the same.
He’s gone now, but Joe Paterno’s impact on this world may never fully be realized. One day, my kids will have Joe Paterno to thank for being a part of making them who they are — because he will always be a part of me. People will debate his legacy for the rest of time, but I knew the real heart of Joe Paterno.
Thank you Coach. I will forever be in your debt.
Taken the day I received my Penn State acceptance letter in 2009, which is still the best day of my life.