phillypressbox

My JoePa Story – WE ARE PENN STATE!!!

In Joe Paterno on January 22, 2012 at 11:47 am

 I’m very saddened by the turn of events in Coach Joe Paterno’s health. This is such a sad day for all Penn State fans and followers. At the time I was living and coaching high school football in Florida. I had the opportunity to meet coach for the first time in 1994 when I took my first player to the Penn State football camp through Tom Bradley, who has become a friend over all these years. A few years later I had the opportunity to take my son, Billy Furman, and his friend Greg Adkins into the football building and have a picture taken with Coach that I later got signed and have cherished. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was going to take the picture of Billy, Greg and Coach when Joe said to me, “Coach, do you want to get in the picture?” Of course I did, so he had a staff member take the picture so that I could be in it too. What a great moment! (I have the photo posted on my Facebook page, Philly Pressbox). I had the opportunity to meet Coach several other times over the years but the most exciting time was actually over the phone. It was 2001 and Penn State was again recruiting one of our players, Wayne Dickens, who ended up going to Auburn. Wayne was being recruited by Bob White and Larry Johnson and Bob had called me at my office to check on Wayne’s recruiting status. At that time Bob said, hang on a second Coach wants to talk to you. I proceeded to talk to Coach Paterno for 15 minutes. During that time we talked about everything except for football for the first 13 minutes. He wanted to know how my family was doing, how it was in Florida and of course how the weather was. We spent the last 2 minutes talking about Wayne and his recruitment to Penn State. It was a great time to be talking to someone who you think you’ll never have an opportunity to actually feel like you’re spending time with other than a handshake. I only met Coach once after that but those memories will never be forgotten.

The two other things I will remember most about the impact Coach Paterno had on me was the people who I met that were directly impacted by Coach. The first year I went to the camp I took one of our players, Keydrick Vincent, to the camp. Keydrick was 6’5” and 340 lbs at the time so obviously you could see him. He ended up going to Ole Miss and playing in the NFL for 10 seasons. When we were on the small plane between State College and Pittsburgh on the way back Matt Suhey was on that plane. When we got to Pittsburgh Matt waiting for us to get off the plane and spoke to us for 10 minutes. He spoke about his PSU experience and about his experience with the Bears and playing in the same backfield with Walter Payton. When Matt walked away I remember Keydrick saying, “Oh my God that was Matt Suhey of the Bears and he’s the coolest guy I ever met”. Talk about impact on an 18-year-old. I know Keydrick never forgot it through his years in the NFL. I also have had a chance to meet John Cappelletti on various occasions. Cappy is always talking about the values he learned from Coach and PSU. I’ve become friends with Adam Taliaferro over the last few years. Most people know Adam’s story but don’t know the person. Adam credits Coach Paterno, his parents and Penn State University for his success as an attorney and involvement in many charitable groups. Adam wants to and is going to make a difference in people’s lives. The list goes on and on but I think the way the PSU football staff handled themselves says all that needs to be said. Anything less than be a first class professional when dealing with high school coaches and players was unacceptable. Coat and tie when visiting high schools was mandatory but the actions and the impression about what to expect academically and in college life was put ahead of what to expect on the football field. The final impact that I feel is the actions of the PSU fans either at home or on the road. There is nothing like a road trip to Beaver Stadium for a football game with all out tailgating. It’s an event like no other. If you’ve never been part of it you have no idea what you’re missing. Visitors can come to Happy Valley, walk College Avenue and go to any local establishment and know they’re going to have a good time and not have to worry about the actions of fans. When the massive Penn State road show heads out everyone knows they’ll be first class fans. It is all a part of the foundation that was laid by Coach Paterno as he built the football program and the university over 45 years as head football coach.

Coach proved that the Grand Experiment can work. Quality athletes can be great people as well as great athletes. Many have become very successful in their personal lives outside of football because they were good students who were held to academic standards like every other student. Coach Paterno led the charge that made 10’s of thousands proud to say “WE ARE PENN STATE”.

Last on this list but surely the reason he was able to build the program he has is his 409 career wins, more than any other major college football coach. Coach really didn’t care about all of records. As far as he was concerned it was important to him how it affected his players and his coaches and fans. Being able to brag that you were a Nittany Lions fan was a special place to be. Whether you were in Gator Country, Seminole Country, Alabama, Tennessee or anywhere else in the country a PSU conversation always led to every fans respect for Joe Paterno as a great coach and a great person who coached college football the right way.

Coach, you will be missed by all of Penn State fans and all fans around the country.

FOR THE GLORY!!

WE ARE…….PENN STATE!!!!

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  1. Bill,

    Well done.

    • Thanks Dave. Such a shame how this all turned for Joe. In the end I feel The Legacy will be restored when the real story comes out and the criminal goes to jail. Shame is that Joe will never get to tell his side.

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