PSU players, coaches, fans attend daylong viewing for beloved Nittany Lion coach

State College - Centre Daily TimesJanuary 25, 2012 

UNIVERSITY PARK — With his hands clasped behind the back of his gray suit, Daryll Clark stood guard over the closed casket of his former coach, Joe Paterno.

It was a job that Clark, starting quarterback with the Nittany Lions from 2008 to 2009, was honored to do, but didn’t want to think about.

“To keep from crying, all I’ll do is think of all five years when I was here, stories he used to tell us in the squad room, the jokes he used to make on the field,” Clark said. “I used to get yelled at by him almost every single day about small things.

“Those things, the signature wins ... all of the great memories — that’s what I’ll do to keep my mind going.”

Clark flanked the casket with tackle Kevin Blanchard for 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon during a 10-hour public viewing at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on campus. Thousands of people — alumni, die-hard fans, students and friends — waited an hour or more outside the center to have a few seconds in which to say goodbye to the man they say dedicated his life to Penn State.

Paterno, 85, died Sunday morning at the Mount Nittany Medical Center from complications of lung cancer. His passing came two months after he was ousted as head coach amid a sex abuse scandal involving his former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.

The Paterno family planned three days of public mourning. The 10-hour viewing Tuesday is to be followed by another viewing from 8 a.m. to noon today. A private funeral service for the family at 2 p.m. will be followed by the funeral procession across campus and through downtown beginning about 3 p.m.

A public memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at the Bryce Jordan Center. More than 10,000 tickets that will allow entry into the memorial service were made available to the public at 10 a.m. Tuesday. All were claimed in less than 10 minutes.

Tuesday morning was dedicated to private viewings, first for family and close friends, then for players, current and former, followed by a viewing for the football staff.

When the public viewing began at 2 p.m. — delayed an hour from its planned 1 p.m. start — mourners were lined up on the sidewalk along Curtin Road almost as far away as Borland Laboratory. Some estimated they waited in line two hours, and Penn State police said they expected 10,000 people would file past Paterno’s casket by Tuesday evening.

By 9:30 p.m., the line had dissipated but a steady stream of mourners continued to flow through.

According to Penn State police around 9 p.m. Tuesday, they planned to cut off the line of mourners, allowing those waiting to still get into Pasquerilla.

Among the mourners earlier were former Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers great Franco Harris, linebacker Lavar Arrington, NFL receivers Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood, Nor-wood’s father and Baylor assistant coach Brian Norwood, and All-American tight end Kyle Brady.

Former players began arriving shortly after members of Paterno’s last team filed in. Some players hugged, and Penn State new football coach Bill O’Brien shook hands with others at the curb outside.

People continued to also pay tribute to the coaching legend Tuesday at the statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium, which was encircled by hundreds of tokens and mementos, extending to the sidewalk. Other subtle tributes could be seen around campus, including a lone bouquet of pink carnations, wrapped in plastic that had been placed at the base of the Nittany Lion Shrine.

Late Tuesday, dozens of mourners gathered at the Paterno statue, and traffic streamed by. Candles and camera flashes flickered and a red rose bloomed from the “V” of Paterno’s middle name on the wall.

Penn State senior Cassidy Clauss wore a headband adorned with blue tulle, a blue flower and black feathers, calling the occasion “perfect” to wear it.

“He really had an impact on me and the whole community,” she said. “He was our grandfather figure.”

Nearby, the marquee at the Bryce Jordan Center displayed “Thank you JoePa.”

Inside the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, a black-and-white photo of a grinning Paterno greeted mourners. Some stopped for a short prayer in front of his casket, draped with dozens of white roses. Others made the sign of the cross as they passed through.

Paterno’s son, Jay, stood at the end of the line Tuesday afternoon, shaking hands and giving hugs.

“Thank you for coming,” the son said.

A woman threw her arms around him, saying how much she loved his father. Another of Paterno’s three sons, Scott, joined Jay in the line later in the afternoon.

Both current and former players took turns standing next to the casket, rotating in 45-minute shifts. A current fullback, Mike Zordich, wiped his eyes while a fullback from the 1990s, Mike Cerimele, stood opposite him.

Outside, fans who were old enough to have seen Paterno coach his first game in 1966 were joined by those who hadn’t yet started school. One young man emerged from the line with the pant cuffs of his dark suit rolled up at the ankles, the way Paterno always did.

Carol Etters Morrell and her husband, Bob Morrell, were walking down Allen Road about 4 p.m. after going through the line. Carol Morrell grew up in State College and her dad, Paul Etters, worked with Paterno.

Through his father-in-law, Bob Morrell got tickets to football games, and he and his wife met Paterno at a pregame get-together at the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, Penn State’s 14- 10 upset of No. 1 Miami.

Now the Morrells have clubs seats and some on the 50-yard line. They said they’ll continue to attend games next season.

“It won’t be the same,” Carol Morrell admitted.

Bob Morrell responded: “I’m sure he’ll be up there looking down.”

Craig Kunkle and his wife, Cathy, said they admired Paterno as a down-to-earth man who didn’t put on airs. They left home in Camp Hill at 9 a.m. Tuesday and while waiting in line, Craig Kunkle told an anecdote his daughter had related to him about meeting Paterno in 1999.

The daughter, Christy, and her friend were returning to their Penn State dorm from a university choir picnic when they saw Paterno on the street. Excited, they got his attention — by yelling “JoePa!” Kunkle said — and asked for a picture. Paterno obliged.

“He told his daughter to take a picture, and that picture still hangs on our refrigerator,” Craig Kunkle said. “He took the time to stop. He was still a common man.”

Like Kunkle’s daughter, many students remember those brief encounters with Paterno, who always had a few words for them.

“I met him one time, I shook his hand,” sophomore Chase Englund said. “I think it’s appropriate to pay respects to someone who’s done so much for the university.”

Junior Arushi Sharan spoke to him briefly last summer, when he was rushing off to another practice or appointment.

“He took the time to talk,” she said. She thanked him for all he had done. “It was short. It seemed like he was on a mission.”

Matt Zupan, who graduated last May, hugged his mom, Kathy, as the two left Pasquerilla. Kathy Zupan wiped tears from her eyes as her son remembered the time he met Paterno at a pep rally.

“He asked me about my classes,” Matt Zupan said. The two laughed.

Zupan spoke more seriously of his sadness over the turmoil in the months leading up to Paterno’s death, when he and the university he loved became embroiled in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

“For me, it just hurts to see a man die of a broken heart,” he said. “All the football and accomplishments aside, for a man to put 61 years into a business and be kicked to the curb is a tragedy.”

Zupan also said he was thinking about the young boys that a grand jury alleges were sexually abused by former offensive coordinator Sandusky. He said Penn State should offer them “unconditional love and support” while it works to regain its honor.

“He’s the man who built ‘success with honor,’ ” Zupan said of Paterno. “I keep thinking about what that means.”

Across Curtin Road, just inside the entrance to the university library that bears Paterno’s name, a Paterno cutout and bulletin board encouraged passers-by to write a memory or message on sticky notes and attach them.

Hundreds were layered and fluttering to the ground by midafternoon. Many featured hearts and expressed love for Paterno. Some shared memories of meetings.

“Hi JoePa,” said one. “I can and will never forget the 1st time I met you my second day working at the (C)reamery and that your favorite flavor is WPSU Coffee Break. Miss you, all is forgiven.”

Deb Eckert, of Lebanon, became a Paterno fan in high school. She played for Lebanon’s high school marching band and got to perform at the 1969 Orange Bowl. Penn State beat Kansas 15-14.

“That did it,” she said. “I’ve been a fan ever since.”

She nearly had the chance to meet Paterno when he recruited Lebanon High’s Jared Odrick.

“I cried,” she said of seeing Paterno, though they didn’t speak. “It was emotional.”

Not everyone lined up Tuesday had years of poignant memories. Some were new to the Penn State community, like Robert Derencz, whose son, Alexander, is a freshman in communications.

Robert Derencz got tickets to every football game this past season except the Nebraska one and felt that he owed Paterno the respect that Paterno has shown the Penn State community.

Derencz even got to shake Paterno’s hand before a game at Beaver Stadium.

“At 9:26 a.m. on Sunday, the world got a little darker, and heaven got a little brighter with him entering it,” Derencz said.

Longtime assistant coach Tom Bradley considered what Paterno might have thought of the thousands of people who came to honor him Tuesday. Bradley, who was interim coach for the end of the season, said he wanted to be the last to go through the line of players and staff.

“I was sure he’s up in heaven, looking down, saying, ‘What are you guys doing? Don’t you have anything better to do?’ ” Bradley said.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616 and mdawson@centredaily.com. Jessica VanderKolk is at 235- 3910 and jvanderk@centredaily.com.

Staff writer Jeff Rice and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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