Joe Paterno remembered for what he did, not what he didn’t

As colleagues and friends looked back on the life of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, they did so with fondness.

The events of the past two months that could have tarnished — and did in some eyes — Paterno's legacy, which included Paterno not going to authorities when he was told former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing a young boy in the Penn State locker room showers, seemed to be nonexistent as those who knew him best — coaches and players — remembered a man who taught them about coaching, life and being a man.

"Coach Paterno obviously did so many wonderful things for a number of years, not only with the success of his teams on the field but the number of lives he shaped," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "I hope people remember his lifetime achievements."

Paterno was with Penn State for 62 years, 46 as the head coach, and amassed 409 wins, more than any other collegiate coach in history. And during each one of those years, Paterno influenced the lives of more than 100 players, each looking to the hall of fame coach to not only team them how to be good football players, but also how to be good men.

"His influence on me personally was a lot more far-reaching than the playing field," former Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny said in a statement. "Coach Paterno should be remembered and revered for his 61 years of service to the Penn State community, the many games and championships he won, and the positive influence he was."

Added former Penn State running back Lydell Mitchell: "We came to Penn State as young kids and when we left there we were men and the reason for that was Joe Paterno."

Even players that didn't go to Penn State respected Paterno for his approach to recruiting and his genuine interest in the student more than the athlete.

"(During recruiting,) Paterno was the only coach that didn't talk about football," Michigan State receiver Nigea Carter said. "He talked about life and what life had to offer at State College. While I did not go there and went to Michigan State, he was the only coach to call me and wish me luck."

As for coaches, many remembered him for his wins and his grace.

"Who's done more for his university than Joe?" former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "You've lost one of the greatest. He probably means the same thing up there that Bear Bryant meant down here. He's an icon."

They remembered his openness during conference functions and his willingness to teach. Several coaches carry Paterno's coaching legacy with them and apply some of his methods to their own teams.

"Without a doubt, his footprint was on every coaching opportunity that I have had in this profession," Colorado assistant head coach Rip Scherer said. "He impacted my career and my coaching philosophy to this day, and I am thankful for that."

While others simply use a photograph to remember Joe Pa.

"I've coached around 300 college games and only once when I've met the other coach at midfield prior to the game have I asked a photographer to take a picture of me with the other coach," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said in a statement. "That happened in the Citrus Bowl after the `97 season when we were playing Penn State."

Asking to take a picture with Paterno, regardless of the situation, wasn't uncommon. Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who didn't really know Paterno, never coached against him and has only coached in the same conference for a year, said he went out of his way to ask Paterno to take a photo with him after sitting next to him at a meeting.

Though Paterno is gone, he'll never be forgotten, and his legacy will ultimately be what each individual chooses it to be. For those who knew him best, and even some who didn't really know him at all, Paterno's legacy will never be tarnished it will always be revered.

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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham

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