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Hetzel: Remembering JoePa

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By Alexa Hetzel

Not being from the state of Pennsylvania, one thing I've always noticed on the highways was the fact that there are no street lights.  So as I was driving along Route 220 Sunday night and the sky was bright in one spot there was only one real explanation.

Joseph Vincent Paterno was born December 21, 1926 to Florence and Angelo Paterno in Brooklyn, N.Y.  He spent his days playing basketball and football, the days when you used to play in the street all day with your friends after school and go home for dinner when the sun set.  That's how most legends start off, spending hours outside playing the games they love until mom calls them in.  Joe's love for football grew when he attended Brown University and played quarterback.  Although he was no Peyton Manning, and still holds the school record for interceptions, he always loved the game. 

After four years of playing the game Joe intended to go to Boston University Law School but changed his mind and followed Rip Engle to Penn State. Little did anyone know Joe would never leave.  A quote I came across explains it the best, "His mother wanted a doctor.  His dad would have been happy with an engineer.  Little did they know that we were getting a legend." 

The repercussions of the decisions we make in life aren't always visible at the time.  When I chose Penn State I had no idea the impact the people I have meet here would have on my life, or the effect one man had.  I never had the honor to meet Joe, that was something I had always wanted to do.  But even having not met him personally his actions and his decisions made me a different person.


 I was asked what my favorite memory of Joe was and when I thought about it a few came to mind.  Watching him being hoisted on the shoulders of his players after his 400th win, listening to him talk at Football Eve, watching him argue with his assistant coaches because he wanted to do a specific play.  But those all weren't good enough, and then I had it.  My freshman year the Nittany Lions were outstanding.  They were undefeated when we were supposed to play Illinois at our first night game.  At the pep rally the Friday night before the game Joe came with the team to talk to the 6,000 people that squished together to get in.  There had been reports saying that Illinois was going to beat us so bad they were going to grind us like meat, and Joe's simple response to end the night after motivating everyone to join in the White Out and cheer was "I'll bring the meatballs."  Needless to say we won that game, and that year we won the Big Ten Championship and went to the Rose Bowl.

So as I drove towards Beaver Stadium the bright light became brighter and brighter.  I hurried the rest of the way to make it for the vigil to honor the man that made me laugh, scream, cry and happy and when I got there Old Main was packed.  The words of Shane McGregor were echoing off the cement columns and out towards the crowd touching each Penn Stater one by one.  When it was all over and I looked to my left and right and saw people joining together getting ready to sing our Alma Mater, it made me smile.  It isn't quite something you can explain but the feeling I had I won't ever forget.  I have always been proud to be a Penn Stater but at that moment I was joined to the thousands of people who felt the same way. 

To the man who made "Success With Honor" a way of life instead of just a saying, who made more that 23 million people bleed blue and white, who had the highest graduation rate in the country, and who is now with his number one fan with his favorite colors all around him, you were more than just a football coach.  You were more than 400 wins, you changed the lives of millions of people and we will always be forever grateful.  You will always be remembered.

We Are...and always will be....Penn State

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