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Penn State Football: Former Players Gather To Remember Paterno

by on September 16, 2016 8:40 PM

Hundreds of former Penn State football players spanning decades of the program's history gathered in State College on Friday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to remember Joe Paterno. Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of Paterno's first game as head coach at Penn State.

For some it was a chance to reconnect as warm wishes and smiles could be seen and heard everywhere as players and their families worked their way inside the arena. An opportunity and an excuse to see long lost teammates all in the same place.

"Do you know who I am," one former player shouted to Franco Harris. "I lost 25 pounds it's okay."

But perhaps most noticeably for players that ranged in ages from their mid 20s to early 70s, it was an opportunity to remember the man that connected them all. The gates of Medlar Field were covered with blue tarps, keeping those outside from seeing the event, but inside it was a walk down memory lane with Paterno acting as the common denominator across time.

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As a former 1970s fan favorite receiver Jimmy Cefalo noted as he entered, it was a chance to connect with old friends, but also to remember a man that changed many of their lives as well.

"I guess outside of our fathers, and I think a lot of the guys would say this, Joe was the most influential person in our lives, and he still guides us today in the many things that he taught us," Cefalo said. "Sometimes dumb things come to mind, make sure you wear a collared shirt to dinner, never be late, little things but they were constant and you kind of lived your life by them."

However for all of the positives connected to the Paterno name the rest of his legacy and story was equally unavoidable even for those most loyal to him in attendance. Across the street at least one protestor held signs, and the media that waited as attendees entered the events asked about the impact the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal had on their impression of Paterno. As Penn State is set to recognize the 50th anniversary of his first game as head coach on Saturday, plenty of old wounds have reopened but for many its the old memories that seem to ring the most true.

"Joe will always be someone who took me out of a very small town and gave me a wonderful opportunity," Cefalo added when asked about Paterno's role in the scandal. "I don't know how many people would say that he was our mentor and somebody who gave me a great deal of my life and then change your opinion about him."

"I wanted to be here to celebrate the grand experiment and to celebrate Joe and to see a lot of those guys."



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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