LaVar Arrington on Joe Paterno: ‘I didn’t know the person I thought I did’

Former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington once defended the "Penn State Way" of keeping things in the family, but on Thursday he acknowledged he didn't really know that family at all.

"If you really think about it, how much do I really know [coach Joe Paterno]?" Arrington told the "Wetzel to Forde" radio show. "How much do we really know him? I know the coaching figure - just like with Jerry Sandusky, I knew the coaching figure. I mean, there's obvious ways of looking at this right now with 20-20 hindsight, but I didn't know the person I thought I did."

Arrington's realization came on the heels of the release of the Freeh Report, which detailed a cover-up by Penn State officials to protect former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was sexually abusing children and in some cases in the Penn State locker rooms.

A somber Arrington, who once vehemently opposed hiring anyone to coach Penn State football who wasn't already in the family, told Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel and co-host David Nuno, who was filling in for Yahoo! Sports columnist Pat Forde, that he was still coming to grips with a lot of the information he had read in the Freeh Report that was released Thursday morning. The report detailed what former FBI investigator Louis Freeh termed, "consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims."

"I've been a supporter and have held out hope some type of information will surface that would shed light on the fact that Joe was the person that I hoped that he was and thought he was when I committed at Penn State and played at Penn State and left Penn State," Arrington said.

[Listen: LaVar Arrington shares his thoughts on the Wetzel to Forde show]

Arrington was a two-time All-American for the Nittany Lions. He won multiple individual awards and finished ninth in the balloting for the 1999 Heisman Trophy. He defended his school and his coach from the beginning, but during the Sandusky trial last month, Arrington learned — as Wetzel put it — he had been the candy to lure Sandusky's victims to his van.

After hearing the testimony of "Victim 4," Arrington realized he knew the young man and had spent a good deal of time with him. Arrington was "Victim 4's" favorite player and Sandusky used that as a way to get close to him. Arrington penned an op-ed in The Washington Post about his relationship with "Victim 4" and how he wished he had paid more attention to the warning signs. Arrington told Wetzel he's still coming to grips with that relationship.

"I didn't know that there's words to describe the amount of disappointment that I'm feeling at this point," Arrington said. "I mean, that was a low moment when I heard and knew exactly who the kid was, but it got even lower to know that no one was trying to help these kids.

"To confirm that people that I have admired and been around and thought so highly of education-wise — the level of education that Graham Spanier brought to the university and the distinguished way about him, the way coach Paterno was, the way I felt about Jerry and how I took pride in trying to take the mantle and hold down the fort and maintaining the tradition of 'Linebacker U'… To have something like this come about, there's no way to really kind of put it in words as to what it… You know, the empty feeling that this has created. There's no way."

[Dan Wetzel: Joe Paterno ignored helpless boys, protecting Jerry Sandusky]

While Arrington admitted that he didn't have a lot of answers about the way he now feels about Paterno, Sandusky and the entire ordeal, he did know what to do to move Penn State forward.

"I think the best thing is anybody who had any type of knowledge about it and it's connectable to them, they should be gone immediately," Arrington said. "I think after today, and I'll look at the Freeh Report again, and again, and probably again after that. I just think that any way, any how, something or someone is related to it, it has to be purged from the institution itself.

"And then they have to do a lot of work to rebuild a tarnished reputation based upon what took place and the lack of action and the failure as an institution to protect children."

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