Joe Paterno called a 'great man' by successor Bill O'Brien
Just a few hours before the New England Patriots were scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC championship and a spot in the Super Bowl, the team's public relations staff released a statement from offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien about the death of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
O'Brien will take over as Penn State's head coach when the Patriots' season ends.
"It is with great sadness that I am compelled to deliver this message of condolence and tribute to a great man, husband, father and someone who is more than just a coach, Joe Paterno," O'Brien said in his statement.
"First, on behalf of Penn State football, we offer our sincerest condolences to the Paterno family for their loss. We also offer our condolences to the Penn State community and, in particular, to those who wore the Penn State colors, our Nittany Lion football players and alumni. Today they lost a great man, coach, mentor and, in many cases, a father figure, and we extend our deepest sympathies.
"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. There are no words to express my respect for him as a man and as a coach. To be following in his footsteps at Penn State is an honor. Our families, our football program, our university and all of college football have suffered a great loss, and we will be eternally grateful for Coach Paterno's immeasurable contributions."
Paterno's passing came at 9:25 a.m. EST on Sunday, according to Mount Nittany Medical Center. Kickoff for the Patriots-Ravens game is 3 p.m. EST.
Photo: New football Coach Bill O'Brien greets Penn State fans at a basketball game earlier this month. Credit: Abby Drey / McClatchy-Tribune