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“The Joe We Know” Coming to the State Theatre This Weekend

The Joe We Know, a film exploring the vast impact Joe Paterno’s Grand Experiment as told by more than 70 Penn State lettermen will premiere publicly this Sunday with 1 and 4:30 p.m. showing at the State Theatre.

Over the past month, film crews have traveled to five locations to speak with several of Paterno’s former players in order to make this possible. The filming was completed on January 19th in New York City, just days before Paterno’s passing. Earlier today, Onward State spoke to some participants about their experience with the film and how it came to be.

Dr. Ray Tesner, a 1975 graduate who founded the Penn State Lettermen’s Club in 1980 said that the idea was inspired by a Jimmy Cefalo interview in early December where Cefalo commented that Paterno’s legacy was not ruined citing that his former players were his legacy.

“The original plan was that the film was going to be a slightly delayed birthday gift. We wanted to make sure Coach Paterno saw it, and we knew time was of the essence.” Tesner told doctors that the target goal was February 18th, and doctors told him that if chemotherapy treatments went according to plan, Paterno would be in well enough condition to view the film. Unfortunately this never came to fruition.

Had Paterno been able to actually see the film, he would have heard many of his former players speak highly of their former coach citing his famous quote “Take care of the little things, and the big things take care of themselves.”

“It was almost comical when everyone got together. We would be talking over each other reciting Joe’s sayings which really speak to his leadership and the longevity of his tenure,” said Brad Scovill, 1981 Penn State graduate.

Tesner, like many other former players, had an extremely close relationship with Paterno. “When I opened a physician’s office in Columbus, Ohio in 1985, Coach Paterno was my emcee for the event, and when I moved to another office in 1990, he was there again.”

The process was rewarding and validated a lot of things we thought but never necessarily got to say,” added Scovill.

Tom Donchez also participated in the film. He played for Paterno in the early 1970s; however, one of his finest Paterno memories remains taking his children back to meet his former coach. “Joe knew my mother well, and while she was no longer alive, he really enjoyed getting to meet her grandchildren. As life unfolds you are busy working and taking care of a family, but Joe was always available for you whenever you needed him.”

Former player Jeff Woofter interviewed for the film in early January and had a similar story upon seeing Paterno at a dinner in Pittsburgh almost fifteen years after he had graduated from Penn State:

I will never forget when I saw him there he asked me how my mother was doing? My father had passed away when I was in 2nd grade and my mother had never remarried. My mom went on my official visit to Penn State and had a great time with Joe and Sue and other parents at Joe’s house one evening.  It amazed me that Joe not only remembered that I was from West Virginia but that my Mother was my only living parent. How could a man be that sharp after all of those years and the hundreds of players?

At the beginning of the project, over $40,000 was contributed to make the film a possibility. Sunday’s showings are free of admission, and while no future shows have been scheduled at the State Theatre, that could change rather quickly.

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About the Author

Drew Balis

Drew is a senior marketing major. This fall, he will be covering Penn State Football for Onward State. He is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and loves THON and Domonic Brown.

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