RIP Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno died today after losing his battle with lung cancer. He was 85.

His family released a statement Sunday morning to announce his death:

“His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled. He died as he lived,” the statement said. “He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”

Paterno built the Penn State football program into a national power, and along the way helped push Penn State University onto the national state. In his time as head football coach JoePa won 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and two national championships. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL.

“He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said after his former team, the Florida Gators, beat Penn State 37-24 in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Paterno’s son Scott said on Nov. 18 that his father was being treated for lung cancer. The cancer was diagnosed during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness.

Paterno had been in the hospital since Jan. 13 for observation for what his family had called minor complications from his cancer treatments.

“As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact,” said the statement from the family. “That impact has been felt and appreciated by our family in the form of thousands of letters and well wishes along with countless acts of kindness from people whose lives he touched. It is evident also in the thousands of successful student athletes who have gone on to multiply that impact as they spread out across the country.”

Joe Paterno’s legacy will always be tainted by the Sandusky sex scandal. But that does not take away what he meant to Penn State University, and the success he had there both on the football field, but also off the field where he raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the school.

Outside of Beaver Stadium, on the east side of the stadium, stands a seven-foot-high bronze statue of Paterno that was erected in 2001. On the stone wall behind the statue is this 32-word quotation from the former coach:

“They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”

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