That's what makes the new book Captains' Letters to Joe so different. As the title suggests, the book is a compilation of letters from the vast majority of men who have captained the Nittany Lion football program since Paterno was named head coach in 1966.
But the original idea was not to publish a book, but rather to gather the letters and present them to Paterno at the State College Quarterback Club's annual banquet last December. It was done to honor Paterno's 400th win, which he achieved last November.
After Paterno and his family accepted the letters, light bulbs went off in the heads of a couple of key people (read more on that below) - the material would make a great book.
Trey Bauer, a captain on the 1987 team and starting linebacker on the 1986 national championship team, was heavily involved in gathering the letters and, later, publishing the book. After a successful career on Wall Street, he has relocated back to State College, where he works in the securities industry. Being in Happy Valley made it logistically feasible for him to be a part of the book project.
Fight On State editor Mark Brennan recently caught up with Bauer to get the lowdown on the book.
FOS: I understand the original plan here was simply to present letters from the Penn State captains to Joe and his family as a gift. Who came up with the initial idea and how was it implemented?
TB: The idea came together - literally at the same time - by two people: Tim Sweeney, a former PSU player in the 1980s, and Dave Richards, president of the State College Quarterback Club. I called Fran Ganter (PSU's associate athletic director for football) to tell him of Tim's idea and he was shocked because he just had a conversation with Dave about a similar idea for a book. We both laughed and thought that if two different people who never met each other had a similar idea at the same time, that maybe we were on to something.
FOS: How much of a challenge was it logistically since Joe has had so many captains and I'm sure they are spread out all over the place?
TB: The logistics have been difficult. We at the Football Letterman's Club (FLC), have a deep data base of all former players and managers who we try and stay connected to. Kelly Thomas (administrative assistant for the FLC) and Fran have been so helpful with this project and it couldn't have happened without them. The FLC was founded as a club for all former players and managers who lettered and tries to help and promote the values and ideals of what we all learned being associated with the Penn State football program. The club tries to keep everyone in the loop regarding our membership and what's going on with the team. We organize reunions, our annual golf outing and we try and raise money for academic scholarships for current team members.
FOS: Was there a specific time when you realized this would make a good book?
TB: Yes. Immediately. As I started talking to former players, friends and local people in town, it became very clear to me that it might be a great idea. Not one person I told about it told me it was not a good idea. In fact, everyone I told about it thought it would be a fantastic book, and not only would they buy the book, but they would buy one for a friend as well.
FOS: What were some of the challenges you faced as this transformed from a compilation of letters a few people would see to an actual book? And along those lines, how did you get Joe on board with the project?
TB: The challenge of it was taking a great idea and trying to figure out a way to make it a reality. Fran, who has been instrumental in guiding and advising the entire process, asked me to help out and be the point person for the FLC. He suggested I meet Dave Richards, who helped create the original scrapbook for Joe and presented it to him at the Quarterback Club Luncheon last December. I met Dave, he was excited about it and wanted to help, and it went from there.
Getting Joe on board was easy. We spoke to Sue Paterno, told her that we wanted to take the scrapbook and make a book out of it where the FLC would donate 100 percent of the net proceeds to fund academic scholarships for the football team for their undergraduate/graduate work. She thought it was a great idea and that she would get Joe on board.
Bauer and current PSU linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden.
FOS: Why are you self publishing the book? That's one serious undertaking.
TB: We decided to go down that path because we wanted to maintain control over the content and how it was going to be presented to the public and felt that it was the best way to proceed.
FOS: How did you decide on what to write in your letter? Was it something you had to think through or was it more spur of the moment?
TB: For me it was easy. I think about Joe and the program almost every day, and the lessons that I've learned over the years and how I implement them in my day to day life. What surprised me was how MUCH of an impact playing for Joe, Penn State, etc. has had on me as a person.
FOS: Are there some common themes in the letters from various captains? If so, what are they?
TB: Yes, there are. As you read through the book, through different decades and eras of players, the same things remain constant: commitment to the task at hand, hard work, loyalty, teamwork and leadership. It's amazing to me how consistent the messages have been and how much playing for Joe and Penn State has meant to the guys.
FOS: You've accomplished a lot in life - as a college football player, in the business world and as a person. Where does being named a captain at Penn State rank on your list of accomplishments?
TB: Being named a captain of the Penn State football team means a lot. There have been so many great players here and to be selected by your teammates - to lead them and our program and represent them - is a great honor. I'm very proud of that and humbled.
FOS: I'm sure you've had the opportunity to correspond with many other captains during this process. How much have you enjoyed that?
TB: It's been great and they have been so supportive of the process and what we are trying to do. They are all excited about it and can't wait for it to be published.
FOS: Can you tell us a favorite Joe Paterno story? One that's fit for print would probably be best.
TB: I have a ton of favorite Joe stories but I'll keep them to myself. You will be able to hear a lot of stories if you buy our book.
You can order the book at: letterstojoe.org