This morning the lights went out in Beaver Stadium. They've been on since Sunday. A beacon of light in a very sad valley. Joe Paterno will never run out from the locker room again. We will will never be lucky enough to watch a Paterno coached football team again. Joe died this week. We all knew we would see the day. We just never thought it would be this tragic.
I never wanted to go to Penn State. I hated Penn State growing up. I went to visit campus when I was a senior in high school because my mom and my neighbors (a family of Penn Staters) said I had to. That weekend I decided I didn't hate it, but I still wasn't sold. Penn State, however, was the only school I was accepted to. I had to go. I started the summer session of 2002. I was in love less than one week later. I think it's true what they say...there is something in the air. It's truly instant happiness upon arrival in the valley. My love grew from the sense of belonging, the loyalty, the intense pride, the deep rooted tradition. All of this, The Pennsylvania State University, the life work of the Paterno family.
Joe Paterno wanted to be remembered as more than a coach, as someone who made Penn State a better place. Let's be real; Joe put Penn State on the map. He took a farmer's college, in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania and turned it into a top university. He embodied all of the traits mentioned above that we so dearly attribute to Penn State. This week countless personal stories have surfaced about the sixty one years of players, parents, students, and community members that Joe and his family have served. I continue to be amazed at the lives this single person made better. If I can live a life a fraction as gracious his, it would be a great accomplishment.
To say that I am heartbroken is no exaggeration. My love for Penn State and Joe, any alumni's love for all things Penn State, knows no end. It's a love that can not be explained, a love that no one outside the confines of Park, College, Atherton, and University, can understand. It's the reason thousands flocked to State College. They needed to be with the people who understood best.
I could never write enough in this post to convey what the loss of Joe Paterno means as a Penn Stater, what this loss means to an entire nation. So with this Friday post I will end my daily Joe post. In my mind I think Joe would have just wanted us all to keep moving forward, to make Penn State proud, because he was so proud of all of us, even if he had no idea who we were. He did know that we are all Penn State and because of that a piece of him will live on in each of our hearts forever. We are his legacy. So, to Joe:
YOU ARE PENN STATE. And I am, we all are, Penn State because you were. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.