JoePa Remembered

Posted on April 11, 2012 by


Joseph Vincent Paterno was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He went on to be an English major at Brown University, where he played quarterback and cornerback.

In 1966, Paterno took over the head coaching job at Penn State. He was an incredible football coach. Even though he only won two National Championships, he produced five undefeated seasons (1968, 1969, 1973, 1986 and 1994), three Big Ten Championships (1994, 2005, and 2008), 29 top-ten national ranking finishes, and an overall record of 409 wins (which is the most wins of any Division I football coach), 136 losses, and three ties.

“One of my favorite memories of coach Paterno occurred while I was being recruited by Penn State. He came to my house to visit with me and my parents. When he entered my house, he took his shoes off, gave my mother a big hug, shook my father’s and my hand, and told us how happy he was to be visiting with the Jonassen’s. We walked into the living room, and instead of coach Paterno sitting on the sofa, he sat on the floor,” Fleetwood physical education and health teacher Eric Jonassen said. “I remember thinking in my mind during his visit to my house that I am the luckiest kid in the world having coach Paterno sitting in my living room wanting me to play football at Penn State.  He was a man that believed in working hard on the football field and even harder in the classroom. He was more interested in how you were doing in class than how you were doing on the football field. Coach Paterno made a huge impact on many student athletes’ lives, including mine.”

Throughout Joe Paterno’s career, 33 of his players have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Forty-seven of his players have also been academic All-Americans.

Paterno has also made more bowl appearances (37) than any other coach. He has won more bowl games than any coach in college football history, with a record of 24 wins, 12 losses, and 1 tie. Paterno is the only coach in history who won each of the current four major bowls, including the Rose Bowl (1994), the Orange Bowl (1968, 1969, 1973, and 2005), the Fiesta Bowl (1977, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1991, and 1996), and the Sugar Bowl (1982).

“In 2005, one of my daughters graduated from Penn State Main. We stayed at a friend’s house just off campus next to Penn State’s golf course.  Joe Paterno lived in the same neighborhood about four blocks away. To get to his house, there was only a gravel access road that ran alongside the golf course. I pulled onto the gravel road and stopped to wait for my father, who was following several cars behind, to catch up. My wife looked up and who do we see walking up the gravel road, Joe Paterno,” Fleetwood history teacher Paul Kochanasz said. “He came over to our car and asked if we were lost and needed directions. My wife explained the situation and thanked him. That tells a lot about the type of person he was, willing to help a total stranger. Our only regret was that we didn’t even think to pull out our camera and get a picture of him.”

Joe Paterno turned Penn State into the respectable University it is today. His career might have ended on a sad note, but he is still one of the greatest coaches in history and will be remembered for it.

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