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Touching all walks of life

College FootballFootballCollege SportsColleges and UniversitiesJoe Paterno

Gov. Ed Rendell said he was happy to be asked to talk about something -- or anything -- other than the state's budget impasse.

Lou Holtz has the perspective of a long-time peer.

Clint Gyory is known only as his alter ego.

Joe Paterno's sphere of influence reaches far beyond the sidelines of Beaver Stadium. So no tribute to JoePa would be complete without contributions from people outside the immediate Happy Valley community.

We asked for impressions about Paterno's impact on college football, the university, the state or the lives of the interviewees. And if an anecdote would provide us with a glimpse of Paterno, we wanted to hear that, too.

Here they are -- in their own words -- appreciations of Paterno:

LOU HOLTZ

Holtz served as head football coach at William & Mary, North Carolina State, the New York Jets, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina. He had a 5-6 coaching record against Joe Paterno. Holtz is a football analyst for ESPN.

I coached against Joe so many times when I was at N.C. State, then at Notre Dame. I have always said that I think Joe Paterno does the best job on the sidelines during the course of the game of anyone I've ever seen. His kids block well, tackle well and have good fundamentals. When you beat them, you know you played pretty good football.

I remember in 1986, Penn State won the national championship and we lost a heartbreaker to them at our place when we dropped a pass in the end zone in the last 15 seconds. When we played him, I didn't know we were playing a championship team. Miami was the favorite.

Well, before the game, Joe said, "It's great to have you at Notre Dame." I asked him how long he was gonna continue coaching, and he said, "Four more years." That was 1986!

The next year, we went over there, and I said, "Well, only three more years," and he said, "Nope, four more." It was always four more years. So he could use it for recruiting.

Joe has been a great tribute to the game, and he has done it with class.

CHARLES BIERBAUER

Bierbauer is an Emmaus native and is best known for his 20-year career with CNN, which included almost a decade as senior White House correspondent. He is dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina. He received two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree from Penn State and has been named a distinguished alumnus and alumni fellow.

Joe is as visible a figure as the Nittany Lion itself. Whenever people find out I am a Penn State graduate, they ask me if I know him, if I have met him and "Is he all you folks from Penn State say he is?" Well, he is. Everyone has great respect for him, even if he doesn't know what Twitter is.

I was on campus doing graduate studies the year he became head coach, but the first time I actually met him was at a state dinner at the White House. Joe and his wife, Sue, were invited. My wife, Suzanne, and I were invited, too, because we were both correspondents covering the White House. I made a point of introducing myself to him, and that started a kind of casual friendship over the ensuing years. We drop a note to each other once in a while. I don't get there very often anymore since we moved to South Carolina. But I did speak there this past year.

I remember one instance when we brought our son Andrew, who was then about 10, to a Penn State home game. Andrew had been bugging us about wanting to play football, and we were reluctant. We went to the Paternos' home after the game – Sue cooked up an enormous pile of Italian food.

We introduced Andrew to Joe, and Suzanne said, "Ask the coach about what you wanted to find out." Andrew said, "When can I start playing football?" Joe said, "Do you play soccer?" Andrew said, "Yes." Joe said, "Keep playing soccer a couple more years." I got the sense that Joe knew exactly what a mom wanted to hear. Andrew listened to Joe, and Suzanne had good ammunition. Andrew finally did play football, but only in middle school and high school.

GOV. ED RENDELL

Rendell, who a couple of years ago said Joe Paterno "has more energy than a lot of 50-year-old people I know," is an unabashed football fan, serving as an analyst for " Eagles Post Game Live" on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.

Sports is such a huge part of our society today, and Joe Paterno will go down as the most successful college football coach ever. But if that's all we remember him for, we miss something extraordinarily important about Joe Paterno, the man.

We miss all the good things he did for other people over the years –-- whether it was for the Salvation Army, or giving [millions of dollars] back to Penn State or the way he has cared about his players or any number of other things.

We have used Joe on a number of [public service announcements] for the state. He is as respected a person as there is in the state.He is a special person. It doesn't stop with his being a good football coach, or doing good for others. And his popularity just continues to grow.

I'm really lucky he didn't decide to run for governor in 2002 or 2006; I'd have had my hands full with him.

U.S. REP. CHARLIE DENT

Dent graduated from Penn State in 1982. His mother, a 1952 PSU grad, met Paterno during the earliest years of his coaching career.

I first met Joe when I was an undergraduate. In my 20s, I would vacation at Avalon and Stone Harbor during the month of June and see Joe walking on the beach. Since being elected to public office, I have had a chance to talk to him more in depth.

He is a remarkable man who has done so much for Penn State. He has been a positive role model for players and has demonstrated that he wants players who are students as well as athletes; and he tries to make sure his players are set for up for life beyond football.

A classmate of mine at Penn State was a walk-on on the football team. Today he is a bank president. Joe always insisted on high standards, going to class, doing things right. A lot of guys he mentored are better people because of Joe.

Joe has a very good way of handling alumni pressure. I've heard a story about the booster club that was putting pressure on him one time and Joe said, "We want your money, but not your two cents' worth."

I think he's been heavily engaged in behavioral modification. He survived as a kind of fatherly or grandfatherly figure. The team has always been more important than an individual, and if a player's behavior was detrimental to the team, Joe would discipline. He has made college football much better.

LEE BUTZ

Butz is not a Penn State graduate (he's a Lehigh alumnus), but he has been dedicated to and involved in sports for more than 60 years. He is chairman of the board of Alvin H. Butz, Inc., the construction management company that built Coca-Cola Park in Allentown and also did renovation and expansion work on Penn State's Beaver Stadium.

Sometimes, I'm a little turned off by his actions on the sidelines, but I have always admired Ccoach Paterno's dedication to the kids, and especially to having them graduate.

His morality is something to be admired among coaches today. I can't help but think he must suffer to a degree because of the attitudes of college football players today. I imagine he's seen things get worse over the course of six decades, and it must be hard at his age to deal with the antics of some players.

Despite that, he is still dedicated to Penn State. Just think how much the game has changed for him from the time he played and from when he started to coach. For him to hang in there this long is remarkable.

CLINT GYORY

Gyory is a Parkland High School graduate and former gymnast at Lehigh Valley Sports Academy. He is the Nittany Lion mascot -- the first freshman to be selected as the mascot -- and he will serve in that capacity his final three years at the university.

I stood next to Ccoach Paterno a bunch of times and I shook hands with him, but I was always in costume, never as myself. He wouldn't have a clue who I am without the costume.

He's a great guy, from what I've gathered. He's one of the funniest and most light-hearted people I've ever heard speak. He's quick as a whip, does speeches off the top of his head and always has a lesson to teach.

Being the mascot, I think the next three years should be amazing … a wild ride. It's going to be very exciting to be able to run out every week, at home or in a different stadium. I've already been to California, Utah, Madison Square Garden and Florida.

I think coach Paterno would be a great guy to sit down and talk with, have lunch with. He seems so interesting, and I'd like to know what he thinks and how he thinks.

Penn State football is what it is because of Joe Paterno, and I hope he sticks around forever.

MICHAEL BASTA

Basta is president of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association. He is a 1970 graduate of Penn State and played intramural sports during his time in State College.

Coach Paterno always makes a tremendous impact on the Lehigh Valley. When the alumni chapter had our dinner in May, we had a great turnout, almost 900 people.

Coach Paterno inspires enthusiasm in the Lehigh Valley for Penn State football and all athletics at Penn State. He also gave the Lehigh Valley alumni an opportunity to listen to a legendary college coach and show pride for Penn State athletic support.

The coach made only three visits in the spring, and we were honored that the Lehigh Valley was one of those three.

One interesting thing happened that night. A young boy from the Lehigh Valley, about 8 years of age, came to the microphone during the question-and-answer period and asked coach Paterno if he would still be coaching when he got to Penn State in 10 years. Joe gave him a huge smile, and the crowd went wild … he never did answer the question.

- Retired sports columnist Paul Reinhard is a freelance writer.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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