It’s Sunday morning January 22nd. By now, as I am sure most of you have heard, Joe Paterno, long-time Penn State Head Football Coach and the winningest coach in NCAA Division I football history, died today – he was 85 years old. To say I am sad would be an understatement. With tears in my eyes, I will do my best to share with you The Joe I Knew. When I was recruited by Penn State in 1970 as a senior at Calvert Hall High School in Towson MD, Coach Paterno (43 years old at the time) was just finishing up his 4th year as Penn State’s Head Football Coach after having previously served there 16 years as an assistant to Head Coach Rip Engle. Little could I, or anyone for that matter, imagine that he would continue in the same role for another 42 years. At that time, Penn State had just finished up two back-to-back undefeated seasons, an incredible accomplishment in and of itself. Not long after taking the reins from Coach Engle, Coach Paterno created the concept of “The Grand Experiment” which was predicated on Penn State football players being more, actually much more, than good football players. Simply stated, he wanted his football players to be good students, to earn a degree while at Penn State and to go on and make a positive difference in the world. It has been a while since I thought about it, but in reflecting back, Coach Paterno geared the recruiting process much more so to the parents of the recruits. He knew that the Moms and Dads of the recruits had spent a good portion of their lives raising their sons and he wanted to reassure them that he would not only be there as their football coach, but he would be there to make sure they would receive a good education, learned important lessons of life, and in doing so, became men. It was not an easy task, but from my personal experience along with countless others, this was Coach Paterno’s greatest accomplishment, not his 409 wins or his incredible gifts to charity.
After arriving at Penn State in the summer of 1970, it didn’t take long for me to gather a sense of the intensity and passion that Coach lived day-in day-out. The themes of Pride and Poise along with Success with Honor were not just catchy phrases given lip service. They were a real part of the Penn State football culture. Coach would teach all of us to “reach beyond our grasp to be the best we could be”. He quoted this phrase often, but it wasn’t until after graduation that I discovered it was actually from a poem written by Robert Browning. The standards set for being our best weren’t simply on the field of friendly strife; Coach Paterno wanted our best in all of our endeavors. He was extremely successful in implanting his vision in me and my former teammates. What’s remarkable is that vision never left after graduation and remains alive and well years after my playing days on the gridiron have long since ended. Everyone who has ever worked for me and/or had a business relationship as either a client, or even a vendor, has indirectly been affected by Coach Paterno’s standards of excellence which were set high as “mediocrity was simply unacceptable” and “good enough was never good enough”.
In my blog “Before You Can Lead You Must Learn to Follow” – Volume 1, No. 6, November 3, 2011 (written and posted just prior to the news of the Sandusky/Second Mile Scandal), I recounted my story of how Coach Paterno turned this young boy into a man. What I didn’t share, was the story of what happened when I came to see Coach at the start of my senior year after deciding to walk away from the game I loved. Much to my surprise, I saw the immense compassion of the man as he would allow me to keep my scholarship, which he didn’t have to do. Even to this day, thinking back, I find it remarkable. But even more so was what Coach said; he told me if he had to do it all over again, he would still recruit me. I would never forget those words or the painful yet valuable lesson I had learned from him.
Years after leaving Penn State, it would haunt me that I didn’t play my senior year. Coach had taught me, and I knew deep down inside, that I was better than that. He had instilled a “reach beyond my grasp” mentality to “be the best I could be”. After graduating from Penn State, with a relatively “safe job” in private industry, I realized I needed to do more with my life, and I did. I would go on to get my CPA and CFP professional designations, found CARLOZO & COMPANY, P.A. and MASTER KEY FINANCIAL SERVICES, LLC, all along while pushing myself in my career outside of my comfort zone in an effort to fully utilize all of my God given talents and abilities. On the personal side, while I had wanted to have children and had been trying for 10 years or so, it just wasn’t happening. In vitro fertilization was new at that a time. A trip to Norfolk VA proved unsuccessful which was hard enough to accept, but even more so, the doctors gave little hope of conception. A few months later, a new in vitro clinic opened in Baltimore at GBMC Hospital. Despite wanting to throw the towel in, my trials at Penn State had taught me better and in turn a decision was made to give it one more try. Seven months later, by the grace of God, my wife at that time and I, were blessed with the gift of life in the form of triplets, Jessica, Nicole and Joe VI, who are now 25 years old (all are doing great and I am so proud of them). Shortly thereafter, I would write Coach Paterno and share with him the good news and thank him for how he helped me become a man. I vividly remember telling him, “this time I didn’t quit – this time I gave my best – this time I won”. Amazingly, he would write me back. It was 1986 and Penn State was in the midst of its National Championship year. In his letter Coach would go on to tell me that “sometimes he didn’t always know if he was right how he handled a player, but that when he got a letter like mine, it made him feel good”. Keep in mind, I was not a star by any means, and for that matter, although I had practiced long and hard, I hardly played. The Joe I Knew took time from his hectic schedule as he once again showed his kindness that didn’t show up in the “wins category”. His letter stands framed in my family room as a keepsake to pass to future generations.
Just prior to my blog mentioned above being posted, I would attend the Penn State home game versus game Illinois, which as it turned out, would be Joe Paterno’s last game as Head Coach. One week later, the news of the Sandusky/Second Mile Scandal hit home like an earthquake. Quietly behind the scenes, former players would one by one stand up in support of Coach Paterno. In early December, a small group of former players were approached by The Porterfield Group, a film production company based in Port Matilda, PA (just outside of State College, PA) to film a documentary (to be entitled The Joe We Know) as a surprise for Coach with location shoots to be in New York, Pittsburgh, State College, Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington. Then on Christmas Eve, I received a call from one of my former teammates asking me to be the host of the Baltimore/Washington shoot. While it was a lot of work behind the scenes, it was nevertheless an honor. I would go on to meet players from other decades, backgrounds, etc. I had never thought about it, but there was a common thread between all of us; Coach Paterno had in some way, shape or form, helped each of us become men while encouraging us to make the most of our lives, just like he had promised our parents when we were recruited. In the final analysis, Coach Paterno’s legacy lives on in all of his former players.
Much has been written about how Joe Paterno died with a broken heart. Many times life is unfair and we are hurt, judged and wrongfully treated by others, regardless of their intentions. No one except ourselves and God knows what is in our heart, yet our neighbors and society in general has a way at times of making assumptions without all the facts. In cases like this, the truth becomes irrelevant. At this moment in time, our belief, faith and trust in God along with support from family and friends pulls us through. Along with many former players of Coach Paterno, we stood up in support and to document the The Joe We Know. Ultimately, although we lost Coach, something good came out of the tragedy as awareness to signs of child sexual abuse came to the forefront. Former players who would have never known one another, united and rediscovered the man they called JoePa was not only quite a remarkable coach, but an even more remarkable human being. In making many new friends spread over six decades, we learned of how consistent Coach Paterno had remained throughout his tenure, true to his principles that he had instilled in all of his players. In filming The Joe We Know, we demonstrated that Joe’s legacy had already been passed down to us. The Joe I Knew not only lives on in me, but countless others, whose lives were touched by the man who led a simple life, dedicated himself to his family, his players and the university that he worked at for 61 years. He made the most of all his God given talents and abilities and passed on these principles and ideals in the pursuit of excellence, to all that followed. As his ultimate death approached, he did not suffer from a broken heart and he was not concerned about himself. He wanted to know his family, former players, staff and the university he dedicated his life to, were doing OK. It didn’t surprise me – that’s The Joe I Knew, and if I had to do it all over, I would have chosen to go to Penn State and play for Joe Paterno. The Joe I Knew made such a profound difference in my life. I would not be where I am today if it were not for him. Thank you Coach….thank you so much. I think coach is looking down now and smiling. Rest in peace Coach….rest in peace.
Have a Great day!!!! May God Bless You!!!
Joseph V. Carlozo (Joe)
Subject: The Final Judgment of Joe Paterno – The Huffington Post:
“The Joe We Know” http://www.thejoeweknow.org/