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Jerry Sandusky and others react to Joe Paterno's death

January 22, 2012 | 12:12 pm
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Jerry Sandusky, the longtime assistant coach who is the focus of child sex abuse allegations that led to the firing of Joe Paterno as Penn State football coach, issued a statement Sunday offering condolences to the Paterno family.

“This is a sad day!" the statement read. "Our family, Dottie and I, would like to convey our deepest sympathy to Sue [Paterno, Joe's widow] and her family.

“Nobody will be able to take away the memories we all shared of a great man, his family, and all the wonderful people who were a part of his life.

PHOTOS: Joseph Paterno 1926 - 2012

"He maintained a high standard in a very difficult profession. Joe preached toughness, hard work and clean competition. Most importantly, he had the courage to practice what he preached.”

Sandusky was Paterno's defensive coordinator and top assistant who retired in 1999. He now faces 52 criminal counts for what prosecutors say was sexual abuse of 10 children over 15 years. He has denied the allegations.

Meantime, Paterno's family asked for privacy as it grieved his passing, and the Penn State faithful in Happy Valley appear to be honoring the request.

PHOTOS: Joe Paterno fired as Penn State football coach

The street where Paterno and his wife lived was blocked off to outside traffic by two police officers who said the family had asked that there be no public gathering at the home, the Associated Press reported.

Late Sunday morning, only a couple of hours after the death of major college football's winningest coach, Paterno's sons, Scott and Jay, arrived at the house separately. Jay, Penn State's quarterbacks coach under his father, was crying.

Emotions were running high elsewhere, too, as former Nittany Lions players, fellow coaches and friends reacted to the news. A sampling from what the Associated Press had gathered:

“It's just sad because I think he died from other things than lung cancer. I don't think that the Penn State that he helped us to become and all the principles and values and things that he taught were carried out in the handling of his situation.” -- Mickey Shuler, Penn State tight end from 1975 to 1977.

“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.” -- Bobby Bowden, retired Florida State coach.

“You could have become a good football player at many places but you wouldn't have become the man you are if you didn't go to Penn State.” -- Mike Guman, former Penn State running back.

“My first thoughts about Joe are not as a coach because he was well beyond that. He was an educator and a teacher. He taught lessons, some about football, mostly about life. He taught us how to treat others and how to conduct life. He did it with his life.” -- Matt Millen, former Penn State linebacker.

“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.” -- Tom Osborne, Nebraska athletic director and former Cornhuskers football coach.

“We came to Penn State as young kids and when we left there we were men and the reason for that was Joe Paterno.” -- Lydell Mitchell, former Penn State running back.

“His influence on me personally was a lot more far-reaching than the playing field. . . . Coach Paterno should be remembered and revered for his 61 years of service to the Penn State community, the many games and championships he won, and the positive influence he was.” -- Paul Posluszny, former Penn State linebacker now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I talked to him on his birthday (Dec. 21). He was a great man and a great friend. He lived by the rules. He made sure his players got good grades. He was about more than just football.” -- George Perles, who coached against Paterno at Michigan State.

“We grieve for the loss of Joe Paterno, a great man who made us a greater university. His dedication to ensuring his players were successful both on the field and in life is legendary and his commitment to education is unmatched.” -- Rodney Erickson, Penn State president representing the university's board of trustees.

“His legacy as the winningest coach in major college football and his generosity to Penn State as an institution and to his players, stand as monuments to his life. As both man and coach, Joe Paterno confronted adversities, both past and present, with grace and forbearance. His place in our state's history is secure.” -- Tom Corbett, governor of Pennsylvania.


Obituary: Joe Paterno dies at 85

Joe Paterno legacy: From triumph to tragedy in days

FULL COVERAGE: Penn State, Jerry Sandusky  scandal

--Mike Hiserman

Photo: Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno at media day before the 1999 season. Credit: Paul Vathis / Associated Press