Paterno, Lions look in good shape
“You guys have to talk about something. The fans have to put something on those—what do you guys call those things, Twittle-do, Twittle-dee?” Paterno said.
While the old coach made it clear he’s not posting on Twitter, he certainly was at his crotchety, comedic best Monday at Big Ten media day.
Paterno has more spring in his step these days, and there’s a long list of reasons why. Start with that new hip, of course, but keep going. Penn State is coming off a Rose Bowl appearance and a share of the Big Ten title. And its 82-year-old leader has a new three-year contract extension.
Life appears to be good for Paterno. His team?
The Big Ten media think highly of the Nittany Lions, picking them second in the preseason poll behind Ohio State. Paterno isn’t tipping his hand.
“I don’t want to get into where the football team is at because I don’t really know,” he said.
There are holes on the offensive line and at receiver, but he also has first-team, all-conference quarterback Daryll Clark back to lead a team that went 11-2 and 7-1 in the conference to tie Ohio State.
Lots to like there.
And thanks to the hip replacement surgery he had after last regular season, Paterno is free of the pain that bothered him for two years.
He’s not up for walking four to six miles as he did in the past. He’s limited to just two for now, but that’s a big improvement. The pain kept him relegated to a golf cart in practice and the press box during games last year.
Another strong season by the Nittany Lions has quieted critics who wondered if it might be time for Paterno to retire, especially after a spate of players getting into trouble with the law.
“I’ve been pleased,” Paterno said. “A couple years ago we were having our problems, and I had some people putting pressure on me, and I said, we’re only one or two players away from being pretty darn good, and we’ve had four pretty good years since then.”
He also pointed toward the stability in his coaching staff, which of course starts with the man at the top. Paterno’s been at Penn State since 1950, the head coach since 1966 and he’s not planning to leave soon. That contract extension put the retirement speculation on hold for now, and that’s just fine with him.
“There’s going to come a time when I’m going to have to look in that mirror and say, hey, you’re not doing a job and you have more of an obligation to the university than just going out there and going through the motions,” Paterno said.
But not now.
“It’s obvious his love of the game is still at an all time high,” Clark said. “He’s in great shape now. It’s going to be very exciting to see him back on the sidelines.
“How many more years he’s going to be here, who knows? A lot of people asked me when I first committed to Penn State, why? Coach Joe was going to retire and whatnot. Well, it’s my last year and he’s still here. You’ve got to love the guy.”
Having Paterno back on the field “gives us the dimension of being a Penn State football player,” defensive tackle Jared Odrick said.
For how much longer? Paterno’s living in the moment. On Monday, that meant drawing laughs.
The Twitter remark came at the end of a long response to a question about the nonconference schedule, which includes Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois—all teams with losing records last year.
And when someone asked what keeps him coming back year after year, Paterno had a quick response: “Oh, I’d miss you guys. What would I do on a nice beautiful day in July?”
Well, he probably wouldn’t be surfing the Internet.
-- Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was the preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones took defensive honors.
-- Following Ohio State and Penn State in the Big Ten preseason media poll was Michigan State. Only the top three teams are released by the league.