How to Remember Our Coach
They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.
That’s written at the statue of Joe Paterno. That, seared into bronze, might as well be his epitaph. As though he knew the emotions his death would spark, Joe speaks to us all now more loudly than ever. It is hard to face the truth of the events that led up to this day and knowing that he is no longer with us, in our community, in what had been his community, his home for decades, is a tragedy.
He knew this day would come. We all did. But we can still be afraid. Things are changing, life is difficult and we feel alone without Joe’s guidance.
But Joe was ready. He died surrounded by his loved ones and his family. He left knowing he had finished everything that he had ever started. We were never truly alone while he was living, and we certainly aren’t alone now. He made all of it possible and he left us to continue the tradition of excellence he bestowed upon our school. And that is what should give us the most comfort, the most solace, on a day like today.
We can’t be certain of where we will go, what we will do or where we will end up, but when Joe was first named the head coach here in 1966, nobody could’ve ever answered those questions about him.
And he brought us this far.
It’s up to us to continue his virtue of excellence in all that we do. And it’s up to us to continue his legacy, so that world may look back on this moment and know without question exactly who we are.
His contributions to our university are endless, but he never did any of it for his own sake. He left all of it to us because it’s always been about us. A building isn’t Penn State. A football stadium isn’t Penn State. And a statue isn’t Penn State. Joe left his true legacy behind to the true living testament of what Penn State is. Us.
We Are Penn State.
Joe wasn’t just a great football coach. He didn’t just make Penn State a better place. He made all of us better people and we owe him a debt of gratitude for everything he did. We will miss Joe Paterno dearly, but we are the ones who must bring Penn State through this moment of pain and confusion. We must strive to make it better than before, and anything less isn’t an option. Joe wouldn’t want it any other way.
There is only one proper way to remember our coach–through his example of always trying to find the best way to do something, always finding a way to make his community a better place. It is time to let him rest in his well deserved peace. Joe’s finished here. It’s our turn now.
And we’re ready, Joe.
Just know that we could never have done it without you. Thank you so very much.
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About the Author
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