FOOTBALL EVE: Back on the Sideline (+video)

On the eve of his 60th year as a coach with Penn State, Joe Paterno walked out to the 13-yard-line without the limp that plagued him all through last year. He picked up a microphone and had one thing to declare to the roughly 30,000 people in the Beaver Stadium bleachers.

"Last couple of years obviously, I haven't been on the sideline as I've liked to be," Paterno said at the annual Football Eve. "I had to be up there in the press box. But I'm gonna be on the sideline from now on in.

"These guys aren't sure if that's good or bad."

Unsurprisingly, the crowd erupted.

Paterno spoke for more than six minutes with a vigor and passion that resembled a speech at a political convention. His voice rose at the end of sentences. He emphasized words and he petitioned the crowd to be loud.

"There are gonna be bad moments," Paterno said. "There are gonna be times when we're a little down. There are gonna be times that some of you are gonna have to give it to the opposing team. Not disrespectfully.

"But loud… loud… loud," he said as his voice rose with each word. "Let's be the loudest place in the whole world!"

The 82-year-old coach wasn't the only person to get a standing ovation. Former Penn State running back Curt Warner received one from a crowd full of students who weren't even alive in the same decade that Warner starred for the Nittany Lions. He related to those students by telling an anecdote about his freshman year.

"Back in '82, which was about 30 years ago, when I arrived here as a freshman, the only thing I could think of was going home," Warner said. "I was homesick. Yes, I was. But I got over it. Now I consider this my home."

Warner's coach, Paterno, wanted to address the issue of respecting opposing team's fans more to a student audience which was full of freshmen.

There have been incidents in the past where Penn State students have acted unruly toward other team's fans and Paterno wanted Beaver Stadium to become a more welcoming atmosphere to visiting fans.

"Let's, whatever we do, respect the people that come here to cheer for their team," Paterno said. "Let's not boo anybody. I hate booing. There's no need to boo. Don't waste your voice on a boo. Save it for ‘We Are Penn State.'"

In years past a noon kickoff meant a half-empty student section at game time.

With the same vigor but with more wit than his request for hospitality, Paterno reminded the audience what time the game started.

"To some of you big, cool cats, the game starts at 12 noon," he said. "And now I realize some of you haven't seen 12 noon on a Saturday in a lot of years. And we need you. Get somebody to throw you out of bed and get your – pardon me ladies -- rear end over here. Cheer like a bunch of maniacs because we want to win tomorrow. And we want to win a lot. We need you! We need you!"

He then led a We Are Penn State cheer and returned to the metal bleachers with his players.


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