Joe Paterno was at the Penn State football game Saturday.
At least in spirit.
Hundreds of fans traded in their football jerseys for shirts that supported the former coach, instead.
It was all part of a “Joe-out” event spearheaded by fans to remember and honor “JoePa.”
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Most people wore T-shirts that said “Thanks Joe,” “We are because he was,” and “409.” Some wore other customized “JoePa” shirts.
On Porter Road outside of Beaver Stadium, there was a statue of two legs with khakis and a pair of shoes.
Penn State fan Jordan Willis stood behind the half statue and got his picture taken like his body was attached to the legs.
From the legs down, Willis looked like Paterno. From the waist up, his shirt said “Got JoePa?” And on top of his head were black-rimmed glasses, similar to what Paterno wore.
The tribute included signs that said “409 forever” and “Joe Paterno: Penn State’s spirit in the sky.”
“There’s a football game and JoePa’s not here. The least we can do is remember him on the days he liked best,” Willis said, who graduated in 2007. “We are Penn State because of him. That’s just how it is. I hope the kids who attend Penn State post-Paterno understand that.”
Alex Sullivan, a Penn State junior, said he understands the impact Paterno had on Penn State, the community and all of college football, even though he started at Penn State after the Paterno era.
“He was a big deal whose name got smothered in a bunch of nonsense,” Sullivan said. “I think the job of the new generation (of students) is to help keep a positive reputation and continue to honor him for what he made this university.”
The “Joe-out” was started by fourth-generation Penn State graduate Laurie Anne Stannell, in hopes fans would dress like Paterno or simply wear apparel that supported “JoePa.”
Patty and Ray Tiley, of Pleasant Gap, have a particularly special relationship with the Paternos.
For more than 10 years, the couple have been a part of the Libraries Development Board, which helps raise money and oversee the Penn State library system — something the Paternos were heavily invested in.
“He had a commitment to the library,” Ray Tiley said. “He wasn’t just a coach. He was dedicated to more than just football. ... That included the library.”
The couple attend most games decked out in blue and white, but they wore Paterno gear Saturday.
Tiley wore a shirt that said “Joe knows libraries,” and said that he and his wife now generally support Sue Paterno and the rest of the Paterno family.
“They’re great and it was a shame all that went on,” Patty Tiley said, “but you can’t erase history.”
And what do they say to naysayers?
“Something we should probably keep to ourselves,” Patty Tiley said.