Ultimate Nittany Lion takes final breath
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Other than family, football was everything to Joe Paterno. It was his lifeblood. It kept him pumped.
Life could not be same without it.
“Right now, I’m not the coach. And I’ve got to get used to that,” Paterno said after the Penn State Board of Trustees fired him at the height of a child sex abuse scandal.
Before he could, he ran out of time.
Paterno, a sainted figure at Penn State for almost half a century but scarred forever by the scandal involving his one-time heir apparent, died Sunday at age 85.
His death came just 65 days after his son Scott said his father had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Mount Nittany Medical Center said he died at 9:25 a.m. of “metastatic small cell carcinoma of the lung,” an aggressive cancer that had spread from one part of the body to an unrelated area.
The winningest coach in major college football, Paterno roamed the Penn State sidelines for 46 seasons, his thick-rimmed glasses, windbreaker and jet-black sneakers as familiar as the Nittany Lions’ blue and white uniforms.
Paterno built a program based on the credo of “Success with Honor,” and he found both. He won 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and two national championships. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL.