Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

To those in the know, Penn State coach Joe Paterno remains sharp

TAMPA — So much for senility.

When 84-year-old Penn State coach Joe Paterno spotted Nittany Lions alumnus Sean Love at Tuesday afternoon's Outback Bowl practice at Jesuit High, he greeted Love — an offensive and defensive lineman in Happy Valley during the Reagan administration — by name.

Then, he asked about Love's wife, Renee', by name.

Then, he asked how Love's kids were doing.

Then, according to Love, Paterno — who allegedly can't recall what he had for breakfast, who supposedly has been admitted to every hospital from State College to St. Petersburg in recent weeks, who is rumored to be days from retirement — hopped in some linemen's faces with all the subtlety of an unmuffled El Camino.

"I mean, he's amazing," said Love, now an assistant at Plant High. "He coaches the QBs, the linemen, the DBs. He has coaching tips for every single position."

For those convinced JoePa has spent the past 15 or so years serving as nothing more than an octogenarian, golf cart-riding figure­head at Penn State practices, those who actually see him each day beg to differ.

To them, he's alert, active and in your grill. He's also bent on remaining on the job for a 46th season in 2011. In a more scrutinized setting, Paterno's sentences might arrive with more of a slur and softness, and his gait is a bit more slumped these days.

But players and assistants insist his passion and perceptibility remain as crisp as the creases in his trademark khakis.

"The guy's a freak of nature," senior defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu said.

"I didn't know what to expect going over there, but he's not on a cart," said Bucs tight end John Gilmore, who also visited his alma mater's practice Tuesday.

"Nobody's carting this guy around. He's walking around from drill to drill. He still stays 50 yards behind the defense yelling."

Meet the star attraction of an Outback Bowl steeped in irony. When Florida and Penn State conclude their New Year's Day meeting late Saturday afternoon, 46-year-old Gators coach Urban Meyer will exit his profession, in part for health reasons.

Paterno, meantime, says he fully intends to remain on the job he has held since 1966, when Lyndon B. Johnson was president, the Buccaneers were 10 years from playing their first game, and Meyer was 2.

"I'm different than Urban. I've got people calling up saying, 'When the hell are you getting out?' " joked Paterno, who expects to have at least 14 of his 17 grandkids at the game. "I don't know when I'll get out. I honestly don't know."

For every shiny, silver commemorative Outback Bowl football Paterno signed — in legible, left-handed cursive — at a Raymond James Stadium function this month, there's an explanation for his longevity.

Just how does one man stay at the same job, reside in the same single-story house a seven-minute walk from campus, and maintain the same scandal-free persona through 401 wins, nine U.S. presidents and 874 coaching changes elsewhere at the Division I-A level?

Depending on whom you speak with, it's passion, perspective, an attention to detail, an ability to delegate, or a hearty stew of such intangibles.

"It's not a job for him. He does it because he wants to," Gilmore said.

"I think he has confidence in us, and we have confidence in him," added 70-year-old offensive coordinator (and former Florida coach) Galen Hall, whose seven years on PSU's staff makes him a Happy Valley newbie compared to his fellow Lions assistants.

"On game day he sees more than anyone I've been around. He has a feel for the game, he has a feel for the players. … He does an excellent job on the sideline of guys that are coming out of games and looking at them and finding out what's going on."

Paterno, signing one silver ball after another, says it's even simpler than that.

"I've had success because I hardly ever lose a coach," said Paterno, whose staff includes six assistants who have worked at least 15 years at PSU, not including former Lions quarterbacks Hall (Class of '63) and Mike McQueary (Class of '97).

"And I hardly ever lose a coach because the university does a great job making it a great place to live and work. State College is a great place.

"I can walk to work in seven minutes. I walk a way down the block, I'm on campus. If I want to have a staff meeting, I can go back home, call up (everyone), and in 10 minutes I can have everybody in the office. They all live in the town. It's a nice place."

Yet as the birthday candles accumulate, so does talk of Paterno's exit. When you're older than the stadium in which you coach, it's only natural. Love heard it — from JoePa himself — when he was being recruited out of high school in eastern Pennsylvania.

"He said at that time I was going to be the last class he coached," Love recalled. "He was only going to coach four more years."

That was 1987.

"I think you just sort of expect it for Joe to be out there, I really do," Hall said. "And he really hasn't slowed down. I think it's phenomenal, but still with Joe Paterno you really don't think it is."

Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.

outback Bowl

Florida vs. Penn State

1 p.m. Saturday, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

TV/radio: Ch. 28; 620-AM

Line: Florida by 7

To those in the know, Penn State coach Joe Paterno remains sharp 12/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 30, 2010 7:08am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. DeSean Jackson's 'Ferrari engine' brings him to first Bucs camp

    Bucs

    TAMPA — When the Bucs signed Pro Bowl WR DeSean Jackson, in the offseason, QB Jameis Winston said his new target was "a Bentley with a Ferrari engine," a nod to Jackson's 5-foot-10 frame but elite speed.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson sits for an interview while on camera with NFL Films.   HBO's NFL Films production of "Hard Knocks" documented a day in the life of Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson with his family at their home in Tampa on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.
  2. What you should know about new Rays slugger Lucas Duda

    Blogs

    The MLB trade deadline is a few days away, but the Rays aren't procrastinating. Earlier today, they swung a deal for the Mets' Lucas Duda, sending minor league right-hander Drew Smith

    Slugger Lucas Duda will add some (more) power to the Rays lineup.
  3. Rays add a bat, too, acquiring Lucas Duda from Mets

    Blogs

    The Rays made another big move today, acquiring 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.

    Duda, 31, is a lefty slugger who will take over as the Rays primary DH against right-handers, with Corey Dickerson now playing most of the time in the outfield.

    To get Duda, the Rays gave up minor-league RHP Drew Smith, …

    The Rays acquired 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.
  4. Bucs do their best to stiff-arm the expectations

    Bucs

    TAMPA — If you want to see a team giving the Heisman trophy stiff-arm to expectations, check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    As always, the key to the Bucs success will be Jameis Winston. He still is only 23, but a charismatic leader that this team and this town believes deeply in. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. A trip down memory lane of Bucs' preseason expectations

    Bucs

    With HBO's Hard Knocks in town and the Bucs opening training camp Friday with their highest expectations in a decade, here's a look back at Tampa Bay's preseason expectations since their last playoff appearance in 2007 — and the results.

    2008

    Jameis Winston and running back Peyton Barber celebrate a touchdown last season against the 49ers. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]