The Penn State coach carried a maroon-and-orange ball cap into the media room and clutched it throughout a 35-interview before the Blue-White game. He said it was a gift from the girlfriend of Jeremy Herbstritt and the girlfriend's mother. Herbstritt, a Penn State graduate and the son of a university employee, was among the 32 people killed Monday in the massacre at Blacksburg, Va.
The mom said, 'I want you to know, I'm a diehard Hokie,' Paterno said. I said, 'That's fine. I was on the Blacksburg campus before you were born.'
There are a number of connections between Penn State and Virginia Tech. Paterno has socialized with Hokies coach Frank Beamer and his wife and tried to call him Tuesday to offer condolences. He also served on a CFA committee with Virginia Tech professor James I. Robinson Jr. Robinson wrote a book about Civil War general Stonewall Jackson that included a poem about Jackson that Paterno quoted during his interview.
Penn Staters used the Blue-White game to show their support for the Virginia Tech community. Many fans wore maroon and orange, including a large group of fans in the card block section of the east grandstand, who donned T-shirts that together formed the school's familiar VT logo. Before the game, offensive tackle Gerald Cadogan addressed the crowd, offering support and condolences. Then, following a moment of silence, the Blue Band - clad in Orange - played Amazing Grace.
Herbstritt's death brought the Virginia Tech massacre uncomfortably close to home for many Penn Staters. Paterno said did not know the Herbstritt family, but he appeared deeply moved by the outpouring of support.
I think it's a great day for college athletics and a great day for college institutions, he said. When you see all those kids wearing Virginia Tech colors and a bunch of kids going after each other and trying to knock the crap out of each other because they love the game, all those people are up there because they love the game and they love this place. And yet their love is deep enough that it carries across two states to another state. So I think it's a great day, and I'm proud to be part of it.