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Jay Paterno on the Legacy of his Father and Penn State

From Jerry Sandusky to the potential for a new book, Jay Paterno laid it all out in an exclusive interview with CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd yesterday.

The meaning of his father’s legacy is a topic Paterno might never be able to avoid in interviews. Paterno stood by his assertion that anyone who knows his father knows that he never would have let Jerry Sandusky get away with abuse if he was aware that it was occurring.

“I know people say, ‘Joe had to know about Jerry.’ I know people say he was all powerful, most powerful man in the state,” Paterno said. “Power is relative. Football coaches don’t have [unlimited] power. They don’t have a police force. They can’t investigate things. … We had that kind of vigilante justice in the South. That’s why we have Civil Rights laws, thank God. If [Joe] wanted to call up a state senator and get him on the phone, yeah, he had that power. But as far as passing a law, he didn’t have that power.”

As many have stated, Joe Paterno was a man of great character, and his son hopes that his legacy will not be the scandal but instead his seemingly always moral-driven intentions. Jay Paterno said of his father, “Here’s a guy who lived his life [with] no DUIs. Didn’t cheat on his wife. No crime. He had a certain moral code about him. If he made mistakes in his life, he made mistakes because his intent was in the right place.”

“This was not a guy who cared about himself over anybody else. To think he, in this one instance, would [ignore these crimes] … They were saying, ‘Joe Paterno was showing callous disregard for the welfare of children.’ You guys don’t know him. He would not do that. That’s just not the guy he was.”

And on top of his moral code, it is important to note that Joe Paterno was a very humble man, one who did not want many of the accolades that accompanied being one of the most successful college football coaches of all time. Joe certainly did not see himself as the all-powerful, omniscient man that many have insisted that he was, as is evident in this titbit from Jay regarding his father’s famous, or perhaps infamous statue: “Cato the Elder, I think, said, ‘I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue than why I have one.’ My dad said that to me at one point: ‘What do you want to put a statue of me for? It’s not like I’m David. There’s not much to work with there.'”

Despite his belief that his father would have never allowed something as heinous as Jerry Sandusky’s crimes occur, Paterno still worries that his father and his university will never be forgiven by many because of what happened, no matter what evidence or proof you want to show them.

“There’s some people, you’re just not going to unring that bell,” he said in the CBS Sports interview. “That’s just the reality. It’s tough to unring that bell. You can’t stop trying. I’ll go to my grave for what Penn State was about.”

Say what you will, but Jay Paterno has been a great ambassador for Penn State over the last year and a half and is one of the more articulate speakers on the Sandusky scandal. Read more of the interview here.

About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.


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Staff Picks: Grabbing A Drink With A Prominent Penn Stater

If you had the chance to hear about Penn State from (or throw down at a State College bar for a night with) some of its most prominent figures, who would you want to grab a beer with?

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