Penn State 'Family' Gathers to Honor Paterno
Cohn, Bob, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
UNIVERSITY PARK -- Joe Paterno influenced and shaped hundreds of players during his 46 years as Penn State's football coach, and it seemed as if all of them came together on Tuesday to say thank you.
Some were absent, of course, but the line steadily lengthened, curving around the block on a raw, blustery morning and afternoon. Men of varying ages and shapes but who shared a tradition waited patiently in the cold. It was a super-sized reunion with the requisite handshakes, hugs, catching up, swapping of stories and jock banter touching on expanding waistlines and receding hairlines.
Then it was time to say goodbye to their coach, who died Sunday at 85, and lend comfort and support to Paterno's wife, Sue, and the rest of the large family. A private funeral service will be held today, and a public memorial will take place Thursday at The Bryce Jordan Center. The 10,000 free tickets were claimed within minutes.
During yesterday's private viewing at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, members of Paterno's 2011 team, his last, filed past the closed, brown casket and blown-up black and white photo of the smiling coach. Then came the legion of those who previously wore the blue and white, an army nearly a half-century in the making.
"Just all his friends," former linebacker Rich Milot said. "This is what he built."
Paterno's casket, adorned with white roses, was flanked throughout the viewing period by a rotating honor guard of one member of the football team and one former player. The honor guard will stay in place during the duration of the public viewing.
Paterno's sons, Scott and Jay, hugged people as they exited in the afternoon.
Reflecting a recurring theme of the day, Warren "Moose" Koegel spoke of Paterno the person, as opposed to the coach who won 409 games over 46 years. What resonated, he said, was how Paterno always remembered the names of his family members, and how his mom adored Paterno.
"A lot of moms were glad their sons came here," he said. "They knew how well he would teach them."
An outstanding center who played on Paterno's early teams, Koegel went on to become athletic director at Coastal Carolina and now has the same job at Jacksonville State in Alabama. He arrived at midnight. "I had to get here," he said.
Others shared that urgency. Outside another entrance, the line for the public viewing started to form long before the doors opened at 1 p.m. It later extended for several blocks, almost a quarter- mile. …