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Penn State Football: Millen, Meade Grapple With Paterno’s Role

on July 12, 2012 3:40 PM

Two former Penn State football players who went on to play in the NFL came to the defense of their former college coach, Joe Paterno, on Thursday.

But Mike Meade, a Nittany Lion fullback who went on to play five years in the NFL, called the finding of the Freeh report “troubling.”

Meade said he still was “struggling to come to grips with it.”

Meade and former Penn State All-American defensive tackle Matt Millen, now a TV analyst for ESPN, were among 430 people interviewed by the Freeh task force.  

Former FBI director Louis Freeh said president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, retired vice president Gary Schultz and Paterno were all to blame for not stopping the raping of children by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky as far back as 1998.

Millen said on ESPN the Freeh report does not “discount all the good” Paterno did during his 62 years on the Penn State coaching staff, including the final 46 as head coach.

“I'm not a big legacy guy per se,” Millen said. “I'm a big character guy. Joe exhibited great character for years. This again is antithetical to anything he talked about or espoused.

“That's tough to take. But that’s their finding and they backed it up with evidence."

Meade’s daughter is a senior at Brown University, Paterno’s alma mater, where she is a videographer for the football team. Meade said he still has lot of positive thoughts about Paterno.

“JoePa will remain a fond memory in my heart because I choose to remember the man for all the positives he has done for millions of young people, including my own children,” Meade said. “But certainly from what I am hearing, I can understand how many of you cannot see him in that light.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I know that most of you understand there is only one supreme being who is able to truly judge us all. As I write this, Joe is meeting with that person.

“I have only read about the first 30 pages of the (Freeh) report and will comment again after I have read it in its entirety. Again, my heart will always be heavy for those victims and their families who were preyed on by the monster (Sandusky) who actually committed these heinous crimes and the fact that he has been dealt with, hopefully offers them some sort of solace — remember he, too, has to meet his maker.”

Millen admitted there’s “a lot of guilt there” when it comes to Paterno, but mostly blamed Spanier, who was fired Nov. 9, the same night as Paterno was.

Spanier should not have let Paterno, the winningest coach in major college football history, influence the administration, Millen said.

“Real leadership says, ‘No, that is not going to happen,’ ” Millen said. “That is your job as a leader. You override that.”

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