Joe Paterno’s Peers Discuss The Legendary Coach

Like the rest of the college football world, the staff at Crystal Ball Run was shocked and saddened by the stunning passing of legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno this weekend. The winningest coach in college football history succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 85, and is survived his wife Sue and five children, all of whom are Penn State grads.

To commemorate Paterno’s passing, we’re going to do something a little different here at Crystal Ball Run. Rather than trying to put Paterno’s football legacy and impact on the world in our words, we’re going to let the people who knew him best do it instead.

Here are what a few of Paterno’s contemporaries, colleagues and friends had to say about the legendary college football coach:


First, a statement from the Paterno family themselves:


“He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”

Former Penn State player, and assistant coach Tom Bradley, who worked under Paterno for 33 years:

“He was a tremendous teacher not because he knew all of the answers but because he challenged us to find the answers for ourselves. … His spirit will live on in all of us who had the great humor of knowing him and running out of the tunnel with him on so many autumn Saturdays.”

Paterno’s Replacement at Penn State, Bill O’Brien:

“The Penn State football program is one of college football’s iconic programs because it was led by an icon in the coaching profession in Joe Paterno. To be following in his footsteps at Penn State is an honor.”

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier:

“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. That happened in the Citrus Bowl after the ’97 season when we were playing Penn State.”

Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, who was 0-4 lifetime against Paterno:

“The legacy of Joe Paterno will be long lasting — not only as a football coach and mentor, but as a family man. For 62 years, Coach Paterno poured his heart and soul into a football program and university, helping countless young men reach their dreams and goals on the football field before moving on to successful careers and lives as adults. It’s hard to fathom the impact that Coach Paterno has had on college football and at Penn State. His insight and wisdom will be missed. We at Northwestern send our condolences to Sue and the Paterno family.”

Former Florida, and current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer told ESPN:

“He was one of my closest friends, a guy I would reach out and talk to. I admired the guy so much. I felt like I needed a notebook when I was around him because I wanted to learn.”

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, who never coached against Paterno as a head coach, but did as an assistant at Michigan:

“I am certainly saddened by the news today of Coach Paterno’s passing. College football has lost one of its greatest, a coaching icon. Even though I was just an assistant when our teams faced one another, I feel honored to have shared the field with Joe. His players’ love for him, it shows how he touched their lives and it tells who he was as a man.

“He will be missed. His mark on Penn State and college football will never be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Joe’s family and friends and the entire Penn State community.”

Former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne:

“Whenever you recruited or played against Joe, you knew how he operated and that he always stood for the right things. Of course, his longevity over time and his impact on college football is remarkable. Anybody who knew Joe feels badly about the circumstances. I suspect the emotional turmoil of the last few weeks might have played into it.”

Former West Virginia coach Don Nehlan:

“First of all, my condolences go out to his wife, Sue, and his entire family. Joe Paterno was an icon above icons in the football coaching profession. What he accomplished as a football coach will never ever, ever, be threatened. When you think of a word to describe Joe Paterno and what he did at Penn State, the word unimaginable comes to mind. That a man could give that much of himself to coach football and shape young men’s lives at one school for that many years speaks volumes for what that man is about. He will be very sadly missed as a person, a friend and in the football coaching profession.”

Former United States President, George H.W. Bush:

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Joe Paterno. He was an outstanding American who was respected not only on the field of play but in life generally — and he was, without a doubt, a true icon in the world of sports. I was proud that he was a friend of mine. Barbara and I send our condolences to his devoted wife Suzanne and to his wonderful family.

And finally, the man who Paterno passed to become the all-time winngest coach in college football history, Bobby Bowden:

“History will say that he’s one of the greatest. Who’s coached longer, who’s coached better, who’s won more games, who’s been more successful than Joe? Who’s done more for his university than Joe? 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.”

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.