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Paterno's legacy to everyone

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By R. A. Monti
Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012
 

We all have to continue Paterno's legacy — a legacy in which he tried to instill the passion to be better people in everyone, not just Penn Staters.

Growing up, my dad used quotes from famous people to help teach me lessons about life. John Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt often were quoted, but my dad's favorite line, by far, was always "You know what Joe says ?"

Didn't do well on a math homework• "You know what Joe says, 'take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.'"

Didn't put in enough time studying for a history exam• "You know what Joe says, 'The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.'"

On the?Mt.?Rushmore?of men who've shaped my character, my father, my grandfather and Joe Paterno all have their mugs permanently chiseled.

For that reason, Tuesday night I found myself, along with my cousin and two of my former?Penn?State?roommates, packed into a SUV driving to?State College?to pay our respects to Paterno, a man none of us had ever met.

It's very hard for an "outsider" to understand what Joe Paterno means to a "Penn Stater."?Penn?State?is a place like no other, a place that grabs your heart and refuses to ever give it back. There's a reason more than 100,000 people make the trip to?State College?for a football Saturday.

In a line stretchng two blocks from the?Pasquerilla?Spiritual?Center?to the Borland building, I used the 28 minute wait to pass by Paterno's casket as an opportunity to reflect on why the coach of a team I never played for meant so much to me.

After I paid my respects, standing at Paterno's statue, now a memorial, with more than 100 people in the bitter cold of a January night inState College, I realized why Paterno was so important in my life.

Wiping a tear from my eye as I peered into Gate A of Beaver Stadium, the gate Paterno had walked through hundreds of times, I realized I loved Joe Paterno because he instilled passion.

Not just passion about football but about life. Passion that made you want to get up everyday and live life to the fullest — all the while with class and integrity.

A friend of mine recently said to me: "Joe's gone, he can't do it anymore, now we have to pick up what he taught and continue his legacy."

He was right, we all have to continue Paterno's legacy — a legacy in which he tried to instill the passion to be better people in everyone, not just Penn Staters.

Driving home, the one thing I couldn't get out of my mind was the memory I had of "trying to find Joe" during a?Penn?State?game.

After a player would take a dumb penalty or showboat after a touchdown, I would take my dad's binoculars and find Paterno, so I could see his reaction.

A vast majority of the time, Paterno would pull the player aside and explain what he had done wrong. You could see the passion spilling out of Joe and into the player. It was one of the more beautiful parts of a football game.

The recognition that I'll never get to "find Joe" again is sad but motivating. Motivating to me and, I hope, to many others to pick up where Joe left off and instill in people the values he taught us.

There will never be another Joe Paterno but maybe there can be thousands who follow his lead.

R.A. Monti of Harrison, a 2010?Penn?State?graduate, is a Valley News Dispatch correspondent.

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