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Franco: JoePa will know when to retire

| Monday, April 18, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK -- When Sue Paterno was in need of someone to help with a Special Olympics fundraiser during Penn State's Blue-White weekend, the wife of 84-year-old Joe Paterno decided to contact an old friend.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Franco Harris was the recipient of Paterno's call, and for the second consecutive year the former Steelers running back drove to State College and served as the honorary starter for Sunday's Beaver Stadium Run.

"I'm a big believer in the value of sports and what it does for the joy and the development of our young people," Harris said. "We have to have everybody get involved in sports and involved in something and this is a way to reach our special kids."

Approximately 1,600 participants raced to raise funds to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania -- more than double last year's total, Paterno said.

However, Harris was in town since Saturday afternoon and caught the end of the first half of the Lions' Blue-White Game. While he said he couldn't take much away from Saturday's game, he didn't mind talking about the Nittany Lions.

With talks circulating about the coaching future of Joe Paterno as he enters the final year of his contract, Harris said he's not too concerned about Paterno hanging on too long.

"If someone would have said that back then that someone's gonna coach that long and still be out there on the sidelines and doing this and doing that, you know I would have said definitely not," Harris said. "But looking at it now, it doesn't surprise me. He loves the game of football, he loves developing young men and you know he still has the energy, still has the mindset."

Harris planned to catch up with his former coach after yesterday's event and said that from what he's seen Paterno's age hasn't affected his coaching style.

"It's his last year of the contract so we'll see where it goes, but I think he'll know when he's ready," Harris said. "When he realizes that 'Hey, I can't really be at the level that I want to be at,' I'm sure that's when it'll hit him."

Paterno's wife said she's unaware that her husband ever had a contract. While she said she never saw it and it is unsure if Joe has a copy, he hasn't talked about it with her.

The only thing Sue Paterno said she knows for sure is that whenever her husband retires or leaves coaching there's one thing he's not allowed to attempt: cooking.

"Not too good," she said of Joe's cooking abilities. "He doesn't know how to turn the stove on. Let's be real. He said he wanted to learn to cook, and all I said was, 'Not in my kitchen.' "

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