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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, December 03, 2023

More than the box score

Are statistics the only measure of greatness?  




True, they are one way of determining if a person is of great stature.  




In the world of sports, they are the definitive way in which fans and writers determine who is the greatest ever at their particular craft. 




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When thousands of people watch the college football contest on television between Wisconsin and Penn State, most will be watching to see if Nittany Lions' Head Coach Joe Paterno can achieve the ultimate goal for the coaching fraternity.  




With one win, Paterno will tie the record for most career wins with former Alabama Head Coach Paul 'Bear' Bryant. 




However, measuring by numbers alone leaves out an important characteristic that define human beings: the value of a person's heart. 




'I'll be able to tell my kids about Coach Paterno and all of the great things he stands for,' junior quarterback Matt Senneca said. 




Paterno stands for what's traditional and morally just in our society: family and academics. These two values are instilled in every player that goes through Penn State. 




'When you're an 18 or 19 year-old kid going to college, you can go in a lot of different directions,' former all-American and pro football Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham said in Paterno's autobiography, 'Paterno: By the Book.' 




'Joe got me going the right way. He didn't make players larger than life. He made sure that it was your education, your family and then football.' 




Throughout Paterno's 51 years in coaching, the last 35 as head coach of Penn State, these values have never wavered and are as strong today as they were back then. 




Born Dec. 21, 1926, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Paterno had his social mores molded from his parents, Angelo and Florence Paterno. 




Family is extremely important to Paterno. While his own family'wife Suzanne, five children and nine grandchildren'take priority, the extended Penn State family, players and relatives of the family can call Paterno up any time and discuss any aspect of their life with him.  




'Two weeks ago, my granddad called him up and said my grandmother is in a wheelchair and can't get up steps,' senior wide receiver Eddie Drummond said. 'Later on that week, JoePa came up to me and said that my granddad called. [The family] can call and talk to him about anything.' 




Sometimes, a player's personal situation has taken precedence over Paterno's own family life. 




In 1973, Paterno coached a running back by the name of John Cappelletti.  




By earning All-American honors and being named the 1973 Heisman Trophy winner, Cappelletti's accomplishments alone would have been enough to garner considerable admiration from Paterno. 




However, there is more to the story than the surface achievements. 




John's little brother, Joey, was diagnosed with leukemia. Paterno, on several occasions talked to Cappelletti's entire family and kept constant tabs on Joey, who was a big Penn State fan. 




When Cappelletti gave his acceptance speech to the Downtown Athletic Club, not one person had a dry eye. Paterno was visibly shaken from holding back the emotions. 




The speech is still considered to be one of the greatest speeches in Heisman Trophy history. 




Whenever Coach Paterno decides to end his coaching career, he will likely win 350 games, maybe more. 




But as the legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote, 'For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He marks'not that you won or lost'but how you played the Game' 




As for Joe Paterno, He will write, not of his wins and losses, but of his character and compassion for people, especially young adults. 




This is Paterno's greatest legacy.

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