Sandusky Trial: Former Penn State Assistant Dick Anderson Remains Close to Jerry Sandusky
It was minutes after Rutgers almost upset Penn State in a 1985 college football contest in the Meadowlands.
And as Jerry Sandusky, the Nittany Lions’ defensive coordinator at the time, walked toward Penn State’s awaiting bus, he was looking for someone.
That would be Rutgers coach Dick Anderson, a longtime colleague, mentor and former teammate. After only a few steps down the Giants Stadium tunnel, the two met as Anderson stepped out from the locker room to greet his friend.
“Tough one, Tiger,” Sandusky said to Anderson, shaking his hand after the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions narrowly escaped with a 17-10 victory over the Scarlet Knights. “We’ve got to be the ugliest 4-0 in the nation.”
Sandusky shrugged his shoulders and gave an apologetic grin, is how Mike Poorman, the editor of Blue White Illustrated at the time, vividly remembers seeing the exchange take place.
“It was clear that Jerry was searching for Anderson, to offer some consolation to his friend,” recalled Poorman, now a columnist for StateCollege.com and a Penn State journalism teacher. “I still remember that scene. It struck me so much back then that I used it to begin my game story.”
Twenty-seven years later, the friendship endures.
Anderson found himself seated with the Sandusky family Monday morning inside a jam-packed Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte.
The start of the proceedings marked the beginning of a trial that not only will determine the fate of Sandusky, but the final chapter of a decades-long relationship with Anderson.
In 1963, Penn State was slated to play the Oregon Ducks to open its season the road. A 19-year-old Sandusky, then a sophomore backup behind Anderson, never expected to play. Only days before the game, Anderson was injured in practice, opening the door for Sandusky.
“We had a meeting the day of the game,” Sandusky recalls in his autobiography “Touched.” “Joe Paterno was an offensive coach. He was going over some plays and said, ‘Jerry, what would you do if Oregon did this?’ I was very nervous, and I couldn’t say anything. I opened my mouth but nothing came out.”
Following college, Sandusky and Anderson continued to cross paths. With a desire to get into teaching, Sandusky was given the opportunity to teach a lesson in a physical conditioning class taught by Anderson. The event became an important moment for Sandusky, who began to learn the ins-and-outs of the teaching profession.
“After watching his class for several days, Dick told me that I could take a stab at the teaching duties,” Sandusky wrote. “I decided to combine some of my basketball skills with my conditioning drills.
"By the end of the lesson, Dick looked at me shaking his head and said, ‘Are you still sure you would like to be a teacher?’ ”
By 1970, both Sandusky and Anderson found themselves coaching at Penn State, Anderson working with the offensive line while Sandusky attended to defensive line and linebacking assignments until his eventual departure as defensive coordinator in 1999.
Over that span, Anderson and Sandusky continued to work together, both responsible for the recruitment of Mickey Shuler, an eventual five-time NFL Pro Bowl player and one of the great tight ends in school history.
During the bulk of Sandusky’s tenure at Penn State, the Nittany Lions found themselves in the greatest era in the program’s history, winning national titles in 1982 and ‘86. Anderson’s brief stint as Rutgers coach from 1984-89 broke up an almost 23-year relationship until Anderson’s return to coach Joe Paterno's staff in 1990.
After Anderson’s return, Sandusky coached his son, Jon, who was a safety for Penn State and is current director of player personnel for the Cleveland Browns.
In 1991, Anderson saw his own son Jeff through the program as a special teams player.
Following Sandusky’s final season at Penn State 12 years ago, the State College Quarterback Club awarded him with the Distinguished Alumni Award. His speech was written in the parking lot of the Second Mile and was perhaps his most public moment as he thanked those who had helped shape his career.
"When I think of Penn State, I think of the words plain and proud," he said. "These are genuine people with tremendous pride. When they do something, they do it with their heart and soul."
As the Sandusky sex abuse scandal ripped through State College this past fall, Anderson sat in his office only a few hours following a meeting with acting athletic director Dave Joyner, who informed all but two members of the coaching staff, including Anderson, that they would not be retained.
With his things packed, Anderson made his way out of the now infamous Lasch Football Building for the last time through a throng of reporters.
“You know I can’t talk about this stuff,” he said.