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Legendary Football Coach Joe Paterno Mourned
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Legendary Football Coach Joe Paterno Mourned


Legendary Football Coach Joe Paterno Mourned
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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The sports world lost a legend today. Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died this morning at a hospital in State College, Pennsylvania. Paterno coached the university's football team for 61 years. He was forced out in November after the child sex abuse scandal that's badly damaged the school's program. Outside Penn State's football stadium today, mourners just wanted to remember the man they called JoePa. Here's NPR's Jeff Brady.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: All day, cars drove slowly past a bronze statue of Joe Paterno. Many stopped and quietly walked up to the statue to pay respects. Among them, 1991 Penn State graduate Kristen Vanderbush. Shivering and with tears running down her face, she read a quote by Paterno that's on the wall behind the statue.

KRISTEN VANDERBUSH: They asked me what is - what I'd like written about me when I'm gone. I hope they write: I made Penn State a better place. Not that I was just a good football coach. And that's exactly what he did. And to be able to have a statement like that and to fulfill it, that's quite a legacy.

BRADY: Vanderbush left a handwritten note for Paterno. Nearby, third-generation Penn State graduate Dave Young brought his 6-year-old son. On the growing display of hats, flags, flowers and candles, they laid a pair of blue gloves. Young says he wore them to Paterno's final home game, against Illinois, in October.

DAVE YOUNG: I had a random pair of Penn State gloves that day that I found in my drawer. They were pretty terrible gloves. I was freezing, but it was a memory from that day. It was snowy. It was awful.

BRADY: Young says he fondly remembers Saturdays with his dad watching Joe Paterno coach football games. The recent scandal added a few bad memories. Still, Young hopes the focus will turn to Paterno's effort to boost the role of academics in college sports.

YOUNG: I was in many classes with football players and they would sit in the front row - every class. They would answer questions, hands were up, they were engaged. And I think that that is Joe Paterno's mentality, is you're not here for - football is a benefit of coming to school here. It's not what you're here for. You're here to become a more educated person, a better person in the long run.

BRADY: A final confirmation of Paterno's educational legacy came in December. The New America Foundation ranked Penn State's football team first in academics among the top 25 teams in the country.

As a child sex abuse scandal unfolded at Penn State in November, Paterno was mostly silent. Just after he was fired, his family announced he was being treated for lung cancer. Last week, Paterno talked with "The Washington Post," which released scratchy recordings of those conversations today. Here, Paterno talks about his firing and lung cancer diagnosis.

JOE PATERNO: Hey. The good Lord's got a reason. You know, I'm not as concerned about me. I mean, what's happened to me has been great. I've got five great kids, 17 grandchildren.

BRADY: That outlook on life is one reason people like Penn State senior Zachary Robinson came out to the Joe Paterno statue today.

ZACHARY ROBINSON: There's lots of people gathered here, taking pictures, leaving candles and flowers and signs for JoePa. Just trying to show their love for him.

BRADY: The hospital where Joe Paterno was being treated says he died just before 9:30 this morning. Doctors say the cause was lung cancer. He was 85 years old. Jeff Brady, NPR News, State College, Pennsylvania.

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