Its hard to believe I could feel any worse about the horrific situation at Penn State and the allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
But when the trial opened Monday, to my dismay, matters became even more personal.
One witness, identified as alleged Victim No. 4 by the grand jury, mentioned me multiple times. He spoke of wearing my jersey and having his photo taken with me. It again brought to mind his name, which originally had come to me when news of this scandal first broke.
Everything that has happened has aged me a few years, as Im sure it has many others. But now my sadness and disappointment are growing as I realize that I knew this young man fairly well but didnt grasp the full extent of what he was going through.
Hes 28 now, but I can recall seeing him around all the time when he was a kid, and I built a relationship with him. I always enjoyed interacting with kids. As time went on, I knew he looked up to me and was a big fan, and I made a point of stopping to talk with him. Id ask him the usual questions: How are you? Hows school? He always seemed mad or kind of distant. I remember distinctly asking him: Why are you always walking around all mad, like a tough guy?
My preconceived notion was that he was part of Sanduskys Second Mile foundation, so he must live in a troubled home, and I chalked it up to that. I would just tell him to smile every once in a while or laugh, that it would make him feel better.
I guess with everything that I had going on, it certainly wasnt a priority for me to try to figure him out. I saw him at the 1999 Alamo Bowl and shared a couple laughs.
I left school for the (NFL) draft and that was that.
I cant believe after all these years Id feel so bad about a kid that I hadnt thought about since I left school.
But of course I do.
As the son of a schoolteacher, I grew up around a woman who always protected and cared for her students as best she could. This was a natural part of my DNA, so much so that I majored in the same field. I wanted to be a child counselor.
So its mind-blowing to realize that a kid I took an active interest in during my time at school was suffering right in front of me and I had no idea that the pain allegedly came from someone in my own football program.
Twenty-twenty hindsight brings so much more clarity.
But at the time I thought we were his place of refuge from what he was going through at home or in school. As much as I saw and talked with him, I felt, in my own way, I was making a difference in his life.
I hate everything that has happened, and now I must admit I feel even worse, knowing what allegedly was happening so close to me, and that I was unaware.
As a parent, I pray I can come to some peace about this and prepare my family for living in a world like this. I will never just wonder why a child is mad. I will never just assume ever again. I will always ask, and let them know that its OK to tell the truth about why they are upset.
My anguish and disappointment doesnt compare to that of the victims. All I can do is hope that alleged Victim No. 4 reads this and can see that Im offering my sincerest apologies. I am so sorry this happened.
LaVar Arrington played linebacker for the Nittany Lions from 1997-99, was an all-American in 1998-99, won the Butkus and Lambert awards in 1999 as the nations top collegiate linebacker, in addition to the Bednarik Award, presented to the nations top collegiate defensive player. After playing at Penn State, he was the second player selected in the 2000 NFL draft. He wrote this for The Washington Post.