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Penn State Football: Four People Why Joe Paterno Isn't Retiring

by on November 24, 2010 12:57 AM

Chris Colasanti. Matt McGloin. Stefen Wisniewski.

One by one, the Nittany Lion football stars marched to the dais on Tuesday in the Beaver Stadium media room. After Joe Paterno.

That’s because at Penn State, Sinatra goes on first, followed by Dean and Sammy and Joey. (In part because on Tuesdays, Ol’ New Eyes must high-tail it out of there to do another gig on the Big Ten coaches’ conference call.)

What Paterno had already offered to the assembled media was this collection of Sinatra tunes: A bit of “Nice Work If You Can Get it,” followed by “The September of My Years” and a rousing closer, “It Never Entered My Mind.”

When each player came out to meet the press -- minutes after Joe had the Nittany Nation all a-Twitter with his pronouncement that he was returning in 2011 -- they didn’t know what the headliner had just said.


What each one soon found out was Paterno said he was definitely coming back. (And “I didn’t say hope,” he semi-snapped.)

That’s why their reactions were so telling. They were genuine. And all the same. They broke into wide grins and shook their heads a bit. It was like they were thinking, “The Old Man, he’s something else.”

But were they surprised?

Colasanti, the senior linebacker who leads the team in tackles with 92, which is 26 more than any other Nittany Lion this season:

“I don’t think it’s a surprise. He’s still vocal and energetic on the field. I’ve always believed that when you are not excited to do things you love then it’s time to step back. He still loves to come out and coach and be vocal. He has fun with it. And we see that and we feed off of that.

“I expected him to come back. This year, he’s been more vocal, trying to just get the excitement going, trying to help us feed off of his excitement.”

McGloin, the sophomore quarterback who has led Penn State to 4-1 hot streak:

“Ha, ha. No, not (surprised) at all. Obviously, I can’t speak ill of Coach Paterno whether he decides to come back or not. Hopefully, he does. I want him back. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was here for a couple more years.”

Wisniewski, the three-year starter at guard and center with a 3.91 grade point average:

“I’m not surprised at all. That doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think anyone on the team would be surprised. The guy just keeps going. He hasn’t lost any passion for this at all.”


It may just be coincidence, but many of the big reasons that go into why Paterno has chosen to return (It’s the third year of a loose three-year deal) are part and parcel of the three players selected to face the media on Tuesday.

That it came on a day when it was announced Penn State had placed three players -- Wisniewski, Colasanti and sophomore defensive end Pete Massaro -- on the first team of the ESPN Academic All-America team helped drive home the points why Joe is staying.

So let's add Massaro to the group, making it a quartet that exemplifies what Paterno is all about and serves as motivation for him to return for his 46th season as head coach.

For example:


Paterno has been harping on the youth of the Lions, and McGloin and Massaro represent the future. It is not too much of a stretch to see both of them, only juniors next year, as future captains.

“I am looking forward to” next season, Paterno said. “I think we've struggled a little bit this year, with the youth and with the injuries and the whole bit.

“I think we're not where I would like us to be yet. But I think with a good spring and a preseason practice, we could be a pretty good football team next year, and I'd like to be part of it.”

McGloin has ignited the Nittany Lion offense, albeit having avoided facing Alabama and Iowa on the road. Nonetheless, in games he has started and/or finished, Penn State is 4-1 after going 3-3 in its first six games with Rob Bolden as the starter.

Before McGloin, the Lions averaged 18.2 points a game; with McGloin, it’s 31.8. He’s thrown 11 TD passes compared to Bolden’s five. And, most of all, he has energized the receivers, the offense, the team and the fans.

No doubt Joe, too.

Massaro began the year as a backup, but has started the last nine games, a steady presence on a line besieged by injuries, inexperience, unmet expectations and faulty alarm clocks. He leads the team in combined tackles for a loss and sacks, with 11.5. And he’s caused a fumble and recovered one, both tied for team-highs.


The biggest – and best – decision Paterno has made in his 45 seasons and 537 games was to start a slew of sophomores at Miami (Fla.) on Sept. 29, 1967. The Nittany Lions won, 17-8, evening Paterno’s career record at 6-6.

They lost the next week against No. 3 UCLA, 17-15, but went on to record a 31-game unbeaten streak that put Penn State – and Joe Paterno – on the map.

The 2010 team has 26 true freshmen, 24 redshirt freshmen and 32 sophomores (including McGloin and Massaro). That’s 82 of the 117 players on the Nittany Lions’ roster – 70 percent.

Joe knows youth will be served. Soon.


Both Colasanti and McGloin are not the smoothest of players, especially Colasanti. But both are heady, confident (one quietly, one boldly) and gritty.

They’re old-fashioned players, the kind that especially harken back to the 1960s, when concussions were “getting your bell rung” (followed by "Get back in there!") and quarterbacks were tough cookies named Sherman and Burkhart and Huffy and Shuman. Pennsylvania roots, as well as a presence in the huddle and in the pocket, predominated at signal-caller. (Sound like any Mac we know?)

That was – and is – the football with which Paterno is most comfortable. And that Colasanti, slow afoot but wonderfully consistent on a unit as stable as Lindsay Lohan, is a first-year starter as a senior, shows that Joe still values loyalty.


Forty-five years later, the concept that college football players can also be students is still alive and well under Paterno’s direction.

If the team can no longer be No. 1 on the field – it hasn’t happened since 1986, although we’ll give a nod to 1994, although 16 years ago – it can be still be No. 1 off it. That validates Joe.

No other football team in the country can match Penn State’s three Academic All-Americans. The rest of the Big Ten (OK, Purdue) had only one player on the first team.

Wisniewski, a secondary education major, made first team for the third time. (That’s a feat accomplished at Penn State only by wrestler Jimmy Martin and basketball player Kelly Mazzante.)

Colasanti, a kinesiology major with a pre-med minor and a 3.61 GPA, will have accumulated a whopping 165 credits by the time he graduates next summer. He aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon (just as Martin is, by the way), although he does want to give the NFL a shot.

And Massaro is a finance major with a 3.83 GPA in finance. All three guys are a reporter’s dream – articulate, thoughtful, insightful and sometimes droll.

Most off all, they fit Paterno’s long-held dictum when asked about how a certain recruiting class is – don’t ask until 10, 20 years from now, when they become doctors, lawyers and teachers, and you can measure their contributions to society.

As Paterno said on Tuesday: “Part of the goals we set out for these kids when they come in is to do a good job academically, and it's always good to have a couple of kids stand out as these three kids are. Wisniewski and Massaro and Colasanti are good, solid people.”

Corny, but true.


Paterno calls Wisniewski “Steve,” who is his uncle and who was a two-time first-team All-American guard at Penn State in 1987-88.

“I think he knows I’m not Steve,” Stefen joked. “I mean, it was 20 years ago.”

Paterno said as much:

“I think he's the third Wisniewski we've had play for us. They've all been great kids, great students, outstanding football players. His dad (Leo) was a tremendous player (at defensive tackle 30 years ago). And his uncle was an All-Pro for years and played pro ball for a long time. And both those two guys were great students. Probably in the same class as Steve is academically.”

Paterno loves family. Including eight current squad members, Paterno has had 26 father-son combinations. That’s nearly one-third of all such combos right now; it is a growing trend. He knows their bloodlines and their loyalties. That provides comfort.

Same is true of his coaching staff.

Of course, there’s Jay. In fact, six of Paterno's nine full-time assistant coaches played for Paterno. Counting their years as both a Penn State player and coach, their average tenure at Penn State is 19.8 years. (And that doesn’t even include Fran Ganter, associate athletic director for football administration, who is in his 44th year with Penn Sate football).

If Joe can convince all of them to stay -- and fellow AARPers Galen Hall and Dick Anderson not to retire -- he will have done his best recruiting of the off-season, as least as far as his personal comfort level goes. And all without leaving home.


Given all that, it really should be no surprise, then, that there’s one senior at Penn State who won’t be finishing his Beaver Stadium career this Saturday on Senior Day.

His name?

Joe Paterno.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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