UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.--Jay Paterno took the podium last at "A Memorial for Joe," the public service held in honor of his late father, Joe Paterno, on Thursday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center and offered some emotional words as Penn State ended its last day of mourning for its long time head football coach.
Jay opened by thanking the public for the outpouring of support shown for his family in the community over the last week, as well as the staff at Mount Nittany Medical Center, the hospital where Paterno passed away on Sunday at the age of 85. He also made a strong proclamation about his father's state of mind as he passed.
"Joe Paterno left this world with a clear conscience," Jay said to a standing ovation.
He then went on to speak for over 20 minutes on his father, reflecting on his work not only as a football coach, but in helping to build Penn State as a university.
"He lived his large life nobly, never blindly chasing success defined by the world's ever changing values," Jay said. "His values and goals remain as a rock across the decades."
His comments, and the service itself, ended with those in attendance joining in the Lord's Prayer, which Jay said Joe used to pray with his team in the locker room after every football game, win or lose.
Jay was preceded by a speaker representing each decade from Joe's coaching tenure in Happy Valley. Charlie Pittman represented the 1960's. He talked of how he almost left Penn State his sophomore year after Joe had pushed him to his brink. He later decided to stay after a talk with his dad, and on Thursday, he reflected on what he learned from the experience.
"What I know now is that Joe wasn't trying to build perfection," Pittman said. "That doesn't exist, and he knew it. He was, bit by bit, building a habit of excellence."
Jimmy Cefalo represented the 1970's and stressed Joe's commitment to academics and his "Grand Experiment," which sought to create successful young men on the field, and off. He also marveled at the way Paterno gathered young men from all types of different backgrounds to create a successful program before sharing the story of his recruitment to Penn State.
"Joe didn't recruit us, he recruited our moms," Cefalo said. "He recruited mine as well. He spoke their language."
Cefalo then proceeded to tell the story of how he returned home one night, ready to tell his parents he'd picked a college other than Penn State, only to find Joe eating with his family. From that night on, he said, he was a Penn Stater.
Todd Blackledge, quarterback for Penn State's 1982 national championship team, spoke at the event, as did Chris Marrone, the representitive of the 1990's. They were followed by former quarrterback Michael Robinson, who flew into town all the way from Hawii, where he's currently preparing for the Pro Bowl. Robinson was received warmly by his fellow mourners, his speech frequently interupted for applause.
"When I met Joe, there was something different about him," Robinson said. "He didn't lie."
That line was greeted with more applause from the crowd, as Robinson went on to explain all of the lessons he learned from Joe, and how Robinson has learned through his life since leaving Penn State in 2005 that his former coach's words continue to ring true and are not the lies some others told him in his recruitment.
Michael Mauti finished the player remarks, representing those on Paterno's final team. He shared his own stories and finished by thanking the letterman in attendance for their support throughout the tumultuous lat few months in Happy Valley.
"Speaking on behalf of the current team right now, this has been a tough time for all of us," Mauti said. "I just want to thank everybody. These lettermen have set the bar for what it means to have success with honor, and that is our job now, to continue on throughout this decade and the decades to come to uphold that tradition."