For most of us, as of a week ago, Jerry Sandusky’s name was a footnote on the historic status of Penn State University’s legacy of producing quality NFL players. He helped preserve the team’s storied “Linebacker U” mythos, sending countless hard-hitting trenchmen into the pros for a school that has produced five NFL Hall of Famers.
Now, the name “Sandusky” sends chills down spines, and that of Joe Paterno causes the sad shaking of heads. One is a story of evil unchecked, the other a story of institutional neglect. And it’s a story that has bled over the lines of college football, and sports, a story that has consumed the country as it unfolds in all its terrible detail.
Among those caught in the middle are the legion of current NFLers who were brought up by Paterno, and for whom the name Sandusky echoed the halls. Players like the Cowboys’ linebacker Sean Lee, Chiefs defensive tackle Tamba Hali, and Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny.
Perhaps they heard whispers, but in a place whose happiness is enforced by its very name, whispers appeared to be few. And judging from their reactions, they have been as deeply shocked and surprised as the rest of us by this continuing horror story.
Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys:
“It’s just a sad situation up there. Coach Paterno has had a fantastic career. I enjoyed very much playing for him and I enjoyed playing for Penn State. It was an unbelievable college experience.
“When it comes to the whole situation it’s just shocking. It’s extremely sad and you pray for the children and you pray for their families and you hope justice is done. Hopefully once justice is done, Penn State can move on and be the great university that it is.”
Paul Posluszny, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars:
“For all Penn State alumni, for everybody involved in the university, there’s not a worse crime that can happen.
“And it happened at our school, on our campus. Obviously, everyone involved, everyone that has the Penn State name, is extremely upset. We were known as a university that tried to do things the right way, and obviously that was not the case. We had the opportunity to be right, to solve a problem, to fix something, and we didn’t. And that hurts. That really hurts because all the talk of doing things the right way all the time, we didn’t live up to that.”
“We’re all in complete shock that this happened at our school, while we were there, that this investigation was going on while we were there and nobody knew. Coach Sandusky was still around. We would see him and just nobody, when we were there, nobody knew what was going on behind the scenes and that’s unfortunate and disappointing.
“He was a legendary coach who everyone held in such high regard. He was a very respectable, a very honorable guy. That is what we were led to believe.
“To me, it’s a sad situation for Coach Paterno and Penn State. To me, Joe Paterno is still a great man and he will always be a legend. Unfortunately, his legacy will be tainted by this. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality of the situation.”
Tamba Hali, DT, Kansas City Chiefs:
Hali has not gone on record with his reaction to this story, but it has to hurt him deeply. Hali still considered himself very much at home in Happy Valley, as evidenced by this video where he returns to the practice field, as a professional, and introduces Joe Paterno to his first-born daughter.
Josh Hull, LB, St Louis Rams:
“It’s a shame that Coach Paterno had to leave on the terms that he did. He was an outstanding coach while I was there. He turned a lot of young boys into men. Did a lot of good things for the athletes in that program. It’s just upsetting that he had to leave the way he did.”
Dan Connor, LB, Carolina Panthers:
“I read the (grand jury) report and it was tough to get through. It’s just gut-wrenching stuff. It’s hard. It was hard for me to get through it being a Penn State fan growing up and then going there and being proud to go there. If that was going on, it was just ugly.”
Levi Brown, OT, Arizona Cardinals:
“I couldn’t believe it. Sandusky might have been the fifth or sixth guy I met when I got to Penn State, and to hear that he was capable of something like that, I would never believe it.
I still think you need to let the law take its course. I only hear what’s on TV so I’m not sure how everything transpired, who knew what and all that kind of stuff. I’m sure after the law takes its course, those who were involved will be punished for what they need to be punished for.
“I hope the families of those that were injured in this situation…. I don’t even know what to say. It’s just so bad.”
For more thoughtful approaches to this tragic story, be sure to check out the work at Crystal Ball Run, who has been looking at this from every angle.