Coach Joe Paterno
409 Pearly Gates Way
Heaven Up Above
Dear Coach Paterno,
You’ve been on my mind a lot recently. It’s hard to believe that it has been a little over a year since we lost you. I know I speak for so many of your former players when I tell you that we truly miss you. You left us way too soon. We wanted to come visit and talk with you. We wanted to reminisce and hear you yell at us one more time to “do it again”. We wanted to thank you for all you did for all of us and for encouraging us to come to Penn State – it wasn’t just a good place to attend college – it was a great place!!! We wanted you to enjoy the time with your family that you so much deserved after coaching for 61 years. We wanted to see you and Sue take a cruise, be on the back seat of a convertible in a parade waving to the crowd, and just simply serving (and rightfully so) as the honorary mayor of State College and Penn State itself without having to think about next week’s game and/or next year’s recruits.
You taught us so much during our time in Happy Valley. As much as we learned during our playing days on the field of friendly strife, it wasn’t until after we took our pads off for the last time we truly began to understand the lessons of life that would serve us for many years to come. We would persevere in the face of adversity repeatedly getting back up after we were knocked down. We would be there for our teammates when they needed us. We would pursue excellence without even realizing mediocrity was not an option. We would reach beyond our grasp being the best we could be and in doing so inspire others to do the same. We would do all these things automatically – you see everything you were trying to do in “The Grand Experiment” worked. Now that you are gone, WE ARE your legacy and we enthusiastically hold that responsibility with great honor, pride as well as humility.
So much has happened in the last year in “the enemy’s” attempt to undo everything you built. Suddenly for a moment in time, the truth became irrelevant. No one could ever imagine what happened; it seemed like the entire world jumped on Penn State in a mob-like attack to dismantle your accomplishments and that of “The Grand Experiment”. Some of the enemies were obvious while sadly others called themselves Penn Staters and/or Penn State supporters while all along having hidden self-serving motives behind the scenes. While the storm of hatred had the after effects of terrorism on the unsuspected, our foundation was so strong that we not only survived, we thrived and have reunited with players from other generations we would have never known. With “Pride and Poise” we stand shoulder-to-shoulder – WE ARE the men of “The Grand Experiment” – “the enemy” didn’t see us coming – they didn’t realize that we were still on active duty as Penn State reservists always and forever. It’s funny when we think of it now, but we all thought we were so unique. In reality, we all shared similar experiences from our days at Penn State. You taught us all the same themes – basic fundamentals that would stand the test of time. “The enemy” is now on the run and the tide is ready to turn and just like in John 8:32, the truth this time will set all of us all free. I don’t just think this – I know it!!!! We have your back Coach…we have your back.
After leaving Penn State along the way to “becoming a man” while we would make our fair share of mistakes, we would always do our best to hold ourselves accountable, making sure to say we were sorry when we were wrong, paying our penance quietly without any notice or fanfare. You taught us all so well that “Success with Honor” was the only way to win even though “the enemy” would, without any excuses and/or conscious, attempt to win at all costs. “Black Shoes, Basic Blues and No Names on the Jerseys” formed a bond in all of us and through our intestinal fortitude guaranteed all members of our team, regardless of the decade we played in, the position we played or our place/ranking on the depth chart, were responsible for our ultimate success.
You always taught us that football was so much more than a game with wins and losses. It was everything about the game of life. You wanted us to go out in the world and make a difference in our communities and the lives of others. While the ultimate goal was always something to strive for, you taught us by being tough on us, instilling discipline and holding us accountable to ourselves and our teammates. Many times it was not easy, and for some of us, we would not realize that you had actually laid the framework well in advance of us even being there – imagine that! In looking back, it is all so obvious now, but “back in the day” we relied on pure instinct to survive as we were still young boys trying to become men.
While we had all recited “The Lord’s Prayer” before and after every game, it wasn’t until your son Jay shared it with us that we realized how much you felt it was a team prayer, with constant references to “we”, “our” and “us” – upon reflection we should have known this but it just took us a little while to put all the pieces together. I haven’t told anyone about this, but in a quiet moment of solitude, I keep returning to the part “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Clearly, we can never forget the Second Mile children who were violated and, as hard as it is and no matter how appropriate our anger, we must forgive Jerry and pray for him as he did do good things during his lifetime, but like other addicts who didn’t get help, “the enemy” once again swept in leaving destruction and ruin. Sadly many of us had seen this before in our lifetime, sometimes with family, other times with friends, whether the addict is a compulsive gambler, a degenerate alcoholic, a drug junkie, or a pedophile, the end result is the same – the addict will lie and deceive and do whatever they need to do in order to feed the addiction all along hurting themselves and countless others young and old alike. Not stopping there, the “enemy” continues to find new ways to promote destruction and evil in our world, most recently using the instability of mentally ill individuals to indiscriminately take of the lives of innocent people. You may have already heard about this Coach, but just in case you haven’t, just last month this relatively young kid who had some mental health issues, went into an elementary school in Connecticut and shot and killed 20 six and seven year old kids in addition to 6 teachers and his mother. It was so awful. On that day, as a society, with tears in our eyes, were all parents of Newtown regardless of our religion, politics, race, age, gender and however else society separates us – on that day our country and the world were a TEAM you would be proud to coach. Please tell God we need more Guardian Angels down here as we all do our best to sort things out and live our lives at peace with one another. While it’s a much different world today, the life lessons you taught us continue to serve us well as we constantly attempt to focus on the promise, and not the problem.
Hopefully by now you have run into my Mom in heaven; she left us in 2007 to be with the Lord. I still have the letter you wrote to her in 1972 (it’s a classic) trying to guide an Italian Mom on how to cook for her Italian son so he could lose weight and hopefully improve his speed and quickness. While here on earth she didn’t understand why I hardly played – I’m sure it’s OK now that she can see that you were just doing your job (the one you promised her and my Dad) that you would make sure I received a good education and that you would make me a man. Now she can better know how thankful I am to you for being tough on me; it didn’t just make a difference in my life – it made a profound difference. Please tell Mamooch how much I miss her. She is always in my thoughts and prayers. I guess while you’re at it, for all the Lettermen who lost loved ones along the way, please tell them we miss them as well.
Last night we had a gathering of 28 Penn State Lettermen, along with 500 Penn State Alumni and friends to watch THE JOE WE KNOW www.grandexperiment.org documentary movie here in Baltimore. It was a GREAT night for all Penn Staters in tribute to you and all that you did for us and Penn State. We had hoped to give this movie to you as a belated birthday present, but just 3 days after filming wrapped, we lost you. As you well know, The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways and your becoming ill when you did was no exception. In making the movie, when we felt you needed us most, players from 6 (yes count them) decades came to meet one another in addition to reuniting with players from their own teams, as if no time had passed. It’s been an incredible spiritual experience and as I sit back and pinch myself (it borders on being surreal) it gives credence that we must all walk by faith, and not by sight. Quite simply, it would have never happened had we all not been knocked down the way we did, but oh boy did WE get back up. Consequently, WE MUST all hold our head high as men of “The Grand Experiment”, as Penn Staters and most importantly, as children of God. We love you Coach; in your memory we will carry on teaching others what you taught us. You will live on in us forever. WE WILL because WE ARE and in doing so we will hold strong to these simple, yet powerful words of guidance – Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you – Matthew 7:7.
Rest in peace Coach…..rest in peace. May God Bless You and Your Family.
Joseph V. Carlozo (Joe)
PSU 1974 – #38