Honoring the Legend

Hundreds of movers and shakers showed up to celebrate Penn State football coach Joe Paterno on the eve of his Hall of Fame induction.

Joe Paterno is being formally inducted it the College Football Hall of Fame at a ceremony in the Waldorf Astoria in New York Tuesday night. But the real action went down a day earlier, as Penn State held a reception in Paterno's honor at the Marriott East in Manhattan.

Though the event was not open to the press or public, as usual, we had sources reporting back to us. Here is some of what went down.

• There were roughly 300-400 people in a relatively small banquet room. Cocktails were served, as were trays of hors d'oeuvres. It began at 6:30 p.m. and went until about 9 p.m., after which most guests hit the town for dinner. Paterno did not leave until closer to 10 p.m., though, as folks kept stopping by to congratulate him and and make small talk.

• Among the former players in attendance were Jesse Arnelle, Trey Bauer, Todd Blackledge, Greg Buttle, John Cappelletti, Al Golden, Franco Harris, Kenny Jackson, Lydell Mitchell, John Shaffer, Brandon Short and Blair Thomas. Cappelletti, the 1973 Heisman Trophy winner, spoke on behalf of the players. He thanked Paterno for all he has done for them and joked that the coach is the only person for whom he would fly from his home in California back to the East Coast. Cappelletti specifically thanked Paterno for making sure that his players do more than simply play football, but that they became complete people.

• A who's-who of major donors were on hand. And while he's not technically considered a donor, Nike founder Phil Knight was at the reception, too. Nike is a major sponsor of Penn State athletics. A few years ago, Nike named the new daycare center at its company headquarters just outside Portland, Ore., in honor of Paterno. Knight joked that the first kids to go to the center have now “graduated,” and Penn State has 400 new fans.

• Penn State president Graham Spanier also spoke. He was very complimentary of Paterno. He said he rarely talks to the coach about football (but they do talk about other things) and said Paterno does not need help from the president while calling plays. Spanier went out of his way to talk about the wide-ranging impact Paterno has had not only on Penn State football, but also the entire university.

• George Welsh, the former head coach at Navy and Virginia (and a Paterno aide in the 1960s) was in attendance. Welsh is already in the Hall of Fame. In related news, another former PSU assistant, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, arrived at the Waldorf Tuesday afternoon and will attend the induction ceremony tonight.

• Paterno's entire coaching staff was on hand. Former coach and current associate athletic director for football administration Fran Ganter and director of football operations Tom Veturino could not attend, as they are in San Antonio making preliminary arrangements for Penn State's appearance in the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl.

• Paterno's wife, Sue, addressed the gathering, announcing that Patrick and Candace Malloy of Key Largo, Fla., had donated $5 million to the Penn State athletic department to create the Malloy Paterno Head Football Coach Endowment Fund. The fund will be used at the discretion of the school's head football coach and athletic director to help with any area of the athletic department outside of salary supplements. It is the largest single donation ever to the athletic department. Joe Paterno had no idea this was going to happen and was said to be "blown away."

• Paterno was the last to speak. He said that would never be where he is today without the help of a lot of people. He was especially thankful to his family and all of the assistant coaches he has had down through the years. He was said to be more emotional than he has been at any of the other events leading up to his induction. In fact, he said the outpouring of support he received Monday evening meant more to him than they actual induction would the following night.

• Joe called Sue Paterno up while he was speaking, as much for emotional support as anything. But they quickly turned into a comedy team. She kept chiming in when he was talking. Finally, he cracked, "The young guys wonder why I don't wear a headset on the sideline," the implication being that Sue could find a way to talk into his ear via the headset to give him advice during the game.

• Paterno introduced each of his children. When he got to Jay, who is also PSU's quarterbacks coach, he smiled, thew his arm around him and said, "There isn't a person in this room who can take more guff than Jay."

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