Just a couple of my personal JVP stories:
I had not yet started classes at Penn State. I had just got out of the Army and Viet Nam in July and newly married.
Back then, on the old term system the Penn State academic year did not start till the final week of September. It was a September Saturday, and I knew the team was going to have a scrimage in Beaver Stadium.
I decided to drive over there and see if I could check it out. Just to show you how things have changed, I drove right up to the back side of the east stands, probably close to where the Paterno statue now stands. The gate was wide open, I walked up the ramps and walked out through the port hole and gazed down on the field where a full pad and uniform scrimage was indeed in progress.
After the second play, a whistle blew, followed by brief silence. Then all heads turned and gazed back up to where I was.
Suddenly I heard that high schrill, Brooklynese voice cut through the air with a yell of "Get him outaheyr!"
Time to exit. I walked back down the ramps and when I got to the bottom a manager was approaching and said, “your not suppossed to be here”.
I said I’m leaving, and I was gone. It was the first time that I heard what was to become his iconic shrill, thankfully it was the only time it was ever directed at me.
February 20, 1983 was a beautiful sunny, unseasonably warm day. I took my 3 girls, ages 11, 8 &1/2 and 3 (mom stayed home) to State College to see the Penn State, Duquense basketball game. I took them to the creamery and started toward Rec Hall. Around the Forum, my oldest daughter turned to me and said, “Dad, look whose coming!” Joe was walking, brief case in hand on a sidewalk that would intersect with ours. Joe stopped, said hi to the girls and asked them if they were having a good time and if they were going to the basketball game. My 3 year old, by this time had her chocolate ice cream pretty much spread covering her face. Joe, with hands on his knees bent over, put his hand on her shoulder and asked her if she was enjoying her ice cream.
There was another minute of small talk with me before we all moved on. My oldest then reminded me that I had my camera in my coat pocket. My big regret is that I failed to think of it myself, because that would have been a picture that all of us would treasure to have.
Just a couple of my personal JVP stories:
I have several stories, but I love when he came down to Atlanta for our Sweet 16 game in 2001. My wife was six months pregnant with our son and Joe took a picture with my wife while rubbing her belly.
I have to find that picture.
It was the Feb or March following our 86 championship. I headed out to Shields for some unknown reason. Finished whatever I had to do and was waiting for the Loop to arrive. There was NOTHING out that way then, no BJC. After Shields, if I remember, there was the stadium and that was it. And it was COLD as the wind was whipping around. And next thing I know, Joe is walking down the street to go into Shields. "I said “Congrats on the Nat’l Championship Coach!” and he stopped to talk! I don’t remember the exact words, but I believe he asked if I was a big football fan? When I replied that I had been coming to games since I was two and that both parents were alums with season tickets. And that yes, I was a HUGE fan. Then the loop arrived. He smiled big, patted me on the arm, said “See you next year!” and walked up the steps. I just remember how COLD it was, and yet, he stopped to talk. I RAN to my dorm room to call my Mom to tell her and she then called my Dad at work to tell him. I swear, it’s like my family thought I was the ‘chosen one’ to have had a conversation with him. LOL.
I’ve been so, so sad today. While my husband is a grad and a fan? He just doesn’t get how much he was revered in my house growing up. I just can’t believe he’s gone.
Beaver Stadium, Sunday night, January 22, 2012
I was not there, but when word of this performance spread, it took my breath away.
Joe’s response to the Board of Trustees, delivered January 22, 1983, after being commended for the 1982 football national championship.
"I very much appreciate those words. You know this is the first Board meeting I have ever been to in 33 years so if I look a little shocked and scared, bear with me, I really do appreciate this. I would hope maybe on this occasion since I’ve never addressed a Board meeting, to maybe share some thoughts with you as to where we are and what I hope we can get done here at the University.
"It pleases me, obviously, to happen to be part of the Number One football team. I am pleased also that it happened at this time in Dr. Oswald’s career that he could leave feeling that he finally got it done. Having been a former coach, he knows how tough it is to get on top of the pile and everything else. It pleases me in a lot of ways.
"But after having said that, and I’m going to be very frank with you, and I may say some things here that maybe I should not, but it does give me an opportunity to tell you how I feel and what I want to do and what kind of contributions I’d like to make to this institution as I stay on.
"You know, obviously, all of us are disappointed in the newspaper reports that some of our academic departments are not rated very high. That bothers me. It bothers me to see Penn State football be Number One and then to pick up a newspaper several weeks later and we find we don’t have many of our disciplines that rated up there with the other institutions in the country. I want to share just a couple of things with you and I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
"I think this is a magic time for Penn State. Dr. Oswald has said this, and I have felt it, and I think he is probably more attuned to it than anybody. There has never been a time when Penn State has been more united or proud. Now maybe it’s unfortunate that it takes a Number One football team to do that. I don’t think we can lose the opportunities that this moment presents to us, and I don’t mean in athletics. I’m not even concerned about the athletic aspects of where we are, I think we can handle that and make sure that we can maintain the kind of teams that you people like to see and you can be proud of and identify with the type of students and the type of football players we get. But I think we have got somehow to start right now.
"I think Dr. Oswald came to us at a time that we absolutely had to retrench in some areas and he has done a magnificent job for us. I for one want to thank him for what he has done for intercollegiate athletics. We would not be Number One in athletics if it had not been for his cooperation. Every time I ever went to him he never said no to me. I’d like to be on record as having said that. Maybe once in a while there has been somebody in between us that has not presented my case accurately, but any time I have had an opportunity to sit with him and discuss some things that we needed, he’s never said no to me. I don’t think we’d be where we are if it hadn’t happened that way. But I go back to a fact that we are in a national situation that I have never felt as I have felt now.
"I have been all over the country in the last few weeks. I have been in Florida, been in California, I’ve been in airports in Chicago and Atlanta, you name it, and I’ve been there recruiting and doing some other things trying to capitalize on the position that you have when you’ve had success and trying to make some corrections in what we have and the abuses of the intercollegiate program.
"Some of the thoughts that I have expressed–and I don’t mean to make this a testimonial of Dr. Oswald–but he was one of the people that came up with the ideas that we had to raise the level for scholarship. He was one of the Council of the American Council of Education–one of the select committee–that came up with the standards that we proposed out on the Coast and I’ve gotten a lot of publicity for having made some speeches out there, but it was Dr. Oswald and some other college Presidents who got together and proposed those standards. But everywhere I’ve gone I’ve heard nothing but ‘boy, Penn State, Penn State, what a great bunch of people, what a great institution’ and all of those things.
"So we do have a magic moment and we have a great opportunity, and I think we have got to start right now to put our energies together to make Penn State not only Number One, but I think we’ve got to start to put our energies together to make this a Number One institution by 1990. I don’t think that’s an unfounded or a way-out objective. I think we need some things.
"I talk to you now as a faculty member, I talk to you as somebody who has spent 33 years at Penn State, who has two daughters at Penn State, who probably will have three sons at Penn State, who has a wife that graduated from Penn State, who has two brother-in-laws that graduated from Penn State, and I talk to you as somebody I think who knows a little bit about what’s going on. Who has recruited against Michigan, Stanford, UCLA, who has recruited against Notre Dame, Princeton, Yale, and Harvard and who has had to identify some things that they have that are better than we have and has had to identify some of our problems. I talk to you as somebody that I think knows a little bit about what’s going on in the other guys, and I think a little bit about what’s going on here.
"We need chairs. We need money so that we can get some stars. We need scholarship money. We need scholarship money to get scholars who can be with the stars so that the stars will come in and have some people around that can stimulate them and they can be stimulated by the stars.
"We need a better library–better libraries would be a better way to put it–so that the stars and the scholars have the tools to realize their potential. We need an environment of dissent and freedom of speech and freedom to express new and controversial ideas.
"Basically, this Board is in a lot of ways reactionary because you are more conservative than anything else. That is not a criticism of you as individuals, but I think that’s a fair criticism of The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees for the 33 years that I have known them going back to Jim Milholland who was acting Chairman and President when I first came.
"We need more controversy, we need more freedom, we need more people to come to us with different ideas, we need more minorities. I am constantly fighting the battle, we don’t have enough blacks; we don’t have enough minorities, everywhere I go, and I don’t have the answers to it, but I’m giving you some impressions.
"We can’t be afraid, too reactionary to new and disturbing ideas; however, we can’t do some of the things all at once. I think that Dr. Oswald and the new President and Ted Eddy, our Provost, have got to sit down–I’m probably not speaking in turn, I’m probably way out of whack, I’m probably on a page that I probably shouldn’t be on but I feel so strongly about it I want to say it–to sit down and put down some priorities. We have some excellent departments. And I know because when I get out in the field we have some excellent departments that can be absolutely outstanding in a relatively short time. We also have some departments that are absolutely lousy and we have lazy profs who are only concerned with tenure and only concerned with getting tenure for some of their mediocre colleagues.
"Alright, now I’m telling you how I feel about it and I may be all wet. But I’ve dealt with all of them, and a lot of these latter groups, some of these people in the latter group would make Happy Valley Sleepy Hollow if we let them. It’s certainly not invigorating. We’ve got a new President and I think that he and Dr. Oswald need to sit down and have to probably make some tough decisions.
"Pirandello, the brilliant Italian playwright–I suppose brilliant and Italian is redundant–wrote a play ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’, in which the characters of an unfinished play come to life and then they try to finish the play. Well, I believe that Penn State has not necessarily all of a sudden come to life. That would be an unfair criticism of all of the great things that have been done here in the 33 years that I have been here. But I think it’s more alive today than at any time in 33 years that I’ve been here. I think it’s well organized, and I think it’s got thrust and wants to pursue. It’s alive but it’s looking.
"I think we are not looking for bricks and mortar–and most of you people are businessmen–and we are not looking for GSA money. I think we are looking for the soul of this institution. The soul may be an overstatement, but I’m not sure I’m overstating the case. I think we’re literally looking for a soul. Who we are, what we are, and I think that basically comes down to soul. We need to find our soul. We need vibrant, aggressive, brilliant teachers and scholars. We have some, but we don’t have enough of them and that’s why we need chairs. We need to give them the resources to grow and the freedom to challenge some of the old ideas and old conceptions that have made this country backward in a lot of ways, and have made this state the one with the highest unemployment of any state in the northeast part of the country.
"I’m a football coach. I sit down with my staff and I look at our schedule and our squad and we say this is what we want to do and this is what we can do. And then we set priorities and make decisions as to how we can achieve our objectives. We put a plan together and we stick with it. We don’t jump from one plan to the other and we bust our butt to get it done. And that’s what has to be done with Penn State in the ‘80s. We can’t wait. It would be nice to say we can wait and in three years put together a major fund-raising campaign. We can’t wait.
"I am only telling you that as somebody who’s in the field. We can only hold up our finger as Number One for six more months and then we have to play the game again and we may not be Number One. Six short months to capture this magic moment. We have got to raise $7 to $10 million bucks as far as I’m concerned in the next six months or we are going to lose some things and an opportunity we have. How do you go about raising $7 to $10 million is somebody else’s concern. I’m willing to help in any way I can. We need $7 to $10 million in the next six months to get us the impetus that we need because we don’t want to lose it. I think we’ve got to take this magic moment and stick it in a jar and we’ve got to preserve it until we open it up in 1990.
"Dr. Eddy, the other day at an alumni meeting down at Pittsburgh where we had over a thousand people in Allegheny County–Stan was there and some of the others were there–and the next night we went to Westmoreland County where we had over 580 people and they turned away 300 people. There is a great group out there right now wanting to get involved in it. Dr. Eddy said it the other night better than I can. He said, and he almost sounded like a football coach, ‘we have a great chance and challenge to make our University Number One in many areas and in coming together to do it we may find out we will have as much fun doing it as we had fun doing it in New Orleans.’
"It was a very moving speech and it hit home. I have had a lot of people come to me wanting to know how they can help. I said to you I have given 33 years, two daughters, and probably three sons to Penn State. I am ready to help where I can to make ‘Number One’ mean more than when we stick that finger up it’s only football.
"We are losing a great President; we’re starting a new era. As Jim Tarman said the other night, we are fortunate that where we are that we’ve been able to get there our way. We’ve not cheated–I mean not deliberately, you never know with that thick rule book. We’ve done it with people who legitimately belong in college. We’ve set a standard in one area that I think created a challenge for us to reach in all of our areas. You are the people who are going to have to help us do it. There are a lot of us that want to get on with it.
“So, thank you very much for this wonderful resolution. I’m moved. I think you know how much I love this institution and how much I appreciate what it has meant to me and my family for 33 glorious years. Thirty-three years of a great love affair that I have had with this place in this town. I have no regrets. I’m only anxious to get on with some other things to make it even bigger and better, not in a sense of size, but in the context of quality and influence in this country and in some of the things that I think it’s important for a major institution of this size to do. So, thank you very much. I hope I didn’t bore you with it too long.”
(Thanks to the poster on BWI who had this transcript.)
That is one of the most awesome things I have ever read.
Tjb, thank you for one of my favorites reads of my life.
Thank you from Jim, Jean, Abbey and Jess
Thanks Tim. Awesome read.
thats what we will miss most. those little personal moments that thousands of PSU fans have had with Joe.
One of my favorite Joepa stories comes from my brother in law.
Back in the eighties he was a tutor to football players most notably to DJ Dozier. He and the other tutors (easily two dozen) had a orientation meet and greet with the coaches and he got to meet Joe. Along with everyone else, he met Joe, shook his hand talked with him for about fifteen seconds and that was it.
About three months later my BIL was walking near West Halls and saw Joe. He waved and said “hey coach how ya doin”. Without missing a beat, Joe waved back and said “Hi Jim, hows DJ doing?”
It was stunning that after months without even seeing my BIL and the fact that he had probably shook hands with like a thousand people in between, that he could remember my BIL and what he did for him.
Just an amazing man.
I exchanged words with Joe several times (briefly.) The first was a very cold winter evening at the bus stop in front of Rec Hall in 1974 when Joe and I aided a youngster who took a fall on the ice. 2nd was off stage at a Special Olympics closing ceremony at Rec Hall. 3rd was during an exercise walk on a SC walking trail. Each time Joe was warm and friendly.
As a kid I watched Mike Reid play as a football star @ Altoona High as a defensive lineman, fullback, and placekicker. Mike went on to play at PSU and I remember sending a question to Joe about Mike Reid on a post card for the weekly TV QUARTERBACKS show that used to be on the tube every week during the football season. I basically asked Joe if he ever considered playing Mike at fullback @ PSU instead of on the D line since Mike was also a star @ AHS as a fullback.
I’ll never forget how thrilled I was when Fran Fisher asked to my question to Joe one night on the show. Joe looked right into the camera and I felt like he was talking to me face to face. He said that was a very good question and he agreed with me that Mike was a good college fullback prospect too but explained to me that he just felt like his future at PSU and at the pro level would be best as a D lineman. I can still remember how thrilled I was as a kid to have him answer my question on the show that night. Still a great memory!
I have no stories about Joe, I’ve never met the man. I can tell you that I am 32 years of age and I grew up not far from Centre County. I can say that I have probably taken for granted the gravity of a human being of Joe’s stature. Yes, we all know Joe was/is revered across the country and across the entire state of Pennsylvania, but nowhere is he revered as much as he is in the sleepy mountain regions of central PA. Most all of us grew up watching PSU play football on Saturdays with no memory of anybody else haunting the sidelines of Beaver Stadium. For all I knew, he was the only person to ever pace that painted line and Lord knows, I likely expected him to do it forever. This brings me to my point:
As I sat, eyes full of tears, watching television yesterday morning, I realized that the death of Joe Paterno felt like losing a family member. Here I sit, shedding tears for a man that I’ve never met, never spoken to, and dont know from Adam. How can this be? The conclusion I come to is that Joe Paterno has long been portrayed as “bigger than life.” However, the reality is that Joe Paterno is an incredibly common and simple man who become an honorary family member of most everybody in our quiet little place on this earth. What I will forever remember about Joe Paterno is not his incredible success, but the very simple truth that a common man in a common place could simply be so very uncommon…I hope you sat in those empty stadium seats last night, reflecting on the joys in your time here, and went home at peace…
May 2011, grabbing a cone outside Smeal.
Wow, great pic, Tim. How did you ever get the squirrel to hold the camera that still ;D
In the Fall of 1982, I had the privilege of working with Fran Fisher and John Grant on the PSU Radio Network, doing stats in the booth during games. That Spring, after travelling to New Orleans on my own dime to make $50 and sit in the booth for the Sugar Bowl, I was working part-time for WTAJ in Altoona. I was in the press box for the Blue White game when Fran grabbed me and asked me if I would help him with something…which turned out to be carrying the AP National Championship trophy down to the field for a presentation. So I carried the trophy to midfield, along with Fran and Herschel Nissenson, and met Joe there for the presentation. After the ceremony, Joe shook my hand and asked if I could carry the trophy back “upstairs”. We all walked off the field and rode the elevator back to the press box. I wish I could remember all that was said, but my head was in the clouds. I do remember exiting the elevator, and handing the trophy to someone that probably wondered who the hell I was, and Joe looked at me and waved his around the press box and said, in his Brooklyn-eese “I hope you do a heck of a lot better in your career than all of these guys.”
He was always someone greatly admired, and will be missed, and not because he was a great football coach.
I addition to Virgil and Browning, Joe had that whole locker-room-“he never picked up a check” schtick down. Here’s a great example, 80 years old. Like the speech to the trustees decades before, he doesn’t use notes.
I may have told this story here before (I do tell it often), but I’ll repeat it anyway.
Back in 1974, PSU was playing at Iowa. I spent most of Friday afternoon in a couple of Iowa City pubs with a friend of mine who was a State College sportswriter and an Iowa coed who was the sister of legendary PSU cheerleader Toni Tri-Delt. Around 9 pm or so, we headed out to the team hotel where we crashed the press hospitality suite. One of us, the sportswriter, obviously, belonged there, but the coed and I certainly didn’t. However, I did know the SID and none of the sportswriters seemed to mind that there was an attractive coed along with us (in those days, there were NO female sportswriters), so we decided to stay away a while.
At some point, I managed to lose a contact lens. The coed and I are crawling around on the floor search through the carpet (it unfortunately was a shag carpet) when behind me I hear the door open. Suddenly I hear the legendary rat voice screaming “Who is she?” and I look up to see Paterno yelling at the SID and pointing at us. I can hear the SID mumbling something about “friend of so and so and sister of a Penn State cheerleader” when Paterno just yells “Get them out of here”.
Fortunately, at that very moment I found the contact and quickly hightailed it out of there.
Rocky Bleier sitting on Joe’s left. 3rd one down.
P.S. Joe was just a wonderful speaker. Seen him a several Spring Game breakfasts.