A love letter to coach Joe Paterno from the Lettermen

Dear Coach,

We came to Penn State to play a game because you came calling. Little did we know that we would also learn your life lessons along the way. We learned to do things the right way — the Joe Paterno way!

Not a day goes by that we are not reminded of something you said or did. We celebrated together, laughed together and cried together.

We lived our lives by your creed: character, integrity, responsibility, accountability and humility. You were an ageless wonder.

You were someone that deeply cared about us and our families. You were there counseling us and supporting us during our darkest days.

Wearing the Penn State uniform was an honor and a privilege. We tried to live our lives with the Penn State alma mater verse in mind:

“May no act of ours bring shame, to one heart that loves thy name, may our lives but swell thy fame, Dear old State, dear old State.”

In the process, we honored our parents, families, teammates, coaches, classmates and the university.

We learned from you that we either got better or worse, to take care of the little things, to give 100 percent effort. “Joe Paterno time” meant being late if you weren’t there five minutes early! You told us to play loose and have fun and to leave any distractions behind once we stepped onto the field.

We learned about the importance of preparation and that football games were not won on Saturday, but were won by what you did Monday through Friday.

Together, we won 409 games under your tutelage, so you knew what you were talking about.

We wonder, though, coach, if you knew that we, at times: feared you, even hated you, admired you and loved you.

One thing, however, was always a constant on this continuum of emotion: We always respected you. We are all so grateful for having had the opportunity to play for you.

Many of us have even sent our sons to play and learn from you. What greater tribute is there?

Coach, you were a fighter and never stopped fighting. No one was more fiery, competitive and enthusiastic than you. If someone thought you couldn’t do it, it only gave you greater motivation to do it. No challenge was too great.

When the odds were against us, you were at your best and inspired us to greatness. You fought for your players, your reputation and especially for your wonderful family that loved you so much.

The fight is ours now, as we continue to fight to restore your reputation and integrity to its rightful place among the great men of your generation. You didn’t die of a broken heart; rather, you earned the time to rest after accomplishing so much in your life.

You stressed the importance of academics, graduated your players and took great pride in what we accomplished off the field and in our communities. Our other classroom was on the field, but what we learned helped us off the field in the way we conducted ourselves and treated people.

You were more than a coach. You were our mentor and leader.

You brought together a band of brothers across a broad spectrum of ethnic, social and economic backgrounds and welcomed us into your family — your Penn State family.

You taught us to hold our heads high and show good sportsmanship, dignity and

class whether in victory or defeat.

We came together as a unit, much stronger, more resilient than a group of individuals. We span over six decades and in all shapes, sizes and colors. We are your sons and many of our sons are your sons.

We took great pride in our ageless, classic uniforms: black shoes and no names on the jerseys.

We were different. We were respected and even feared. Together we were strong. Together we would battle. Together we were family.

We were Penn State!

Nobody gave as much to others and to the university as you, coach, along with your dear wife, Sue. Your impact on our lives is immense.

We are undoubtedly better sons, brothers, husbands and fathers for having played for you. For that, we will always be grateful.

We are your legacy, and we will pass it on to our children and our children’s children.

Coach, please know that you did “do more” — you did more than you will ever know. You have touched the lives of so many young men, and we are better for it.

We honor you by moving on with the lessons learned, by doing things the right way — the Joe Paterno way

Thank you, coach. We love you. We will miss you, but we will never, ever forget you!


The Penn State Football Lettermen

Joe Lally, Class of 1979, is a Penn State Football Letterman and is “the proud father of four beautiful daughters.” He currently is a sales director at RR Donnelley.

reprinted from the Daily Collegian Online


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