Paterno was a standout on both the football field and basketball court. As Brown University stated, "He is one of the most admired figures in college athletics, an acknowledged icon whose influence extends well beyond the football field. He is the model for coaching at the collegiate level, as an educator first, a man of honor and commitment, and successful leader and teacher of young men." Paterno still holds the Brown record for career interceptions (14). He was also named to Brown's 125th Anniversary Football Team.
Among his various other honors and awards, Paterno was selected by the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame as the first active coach to receive its Distinguished American Award. He was named the 1986 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, and earned the prestigious Amos Alonzo Stag Award from the American Football Coaches Association. Paterno was also the initial winner of the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award in 1998.
The 100 Most Influential Student-Athletes were chosen by a special panel that included college presidents, athletics directors, faculty representatives, student-athletes and conference representatives.