On this day, we say goodbye. We shed a tear, we mourn a tremendous loss. On this day, we remember a legend, and we honor a Lion that roamed the sidelines for decades. On this day, we recognize a father and a teacher, a leader of men and a champion of women. On this day, we recognize the strength of the foundation that a man named Joe spent many years building, brick by brick. On this day, the Grand Experiment was forced to walk alone, Success With Honor was placed in our hands and left up to us.
On this day, five years ago, Joe Paterno passed away. Officially, the cause of death was lung cancer, but we all know the root was a broken heart. On this day, five years ago, Penn State suffered a fatal blow, another kick in the gut as we lay wounded. We awoke to learn that a mentor and friend was no longer with us. We learned the face of the Nittany Lions would be left only in our memories. We watched with anger as outsiders debated his legacy, rather than pay respect to it. On this day, five years ago, we entered a world of unknown. Our Camelot turned into catastrophe. Happy Valley was anything but happy, sadly.
On this day, our hearts were broken because we were forced to say goodbye to someone we never wanted to lose. The old, Italian man from Brooklyn, with the Coke-bottle glasses, the rolled-up khakis, and enough attitude to tell a sitting President off. The man who made black shoes and basic blues the uniform of choice. A man who hated State College when he first arrived, but simply could never leave. He walked the sidewalks more often than he roamed the sideline, he often stopped to talk to adoring fans, and he made sure that students kept their noses in their books; not just the student-athletes he coached, but all the student he came across. Because his trophies, awards, and accomplishments meant nothing compared to a GPA and a path to graduation.
On this day, the beating heart of Penn State passed away. Gone, but never forgotten. As the seasons move forward, it gets a little easier to say goodbye, but it never easier to forget the way he was treated in the end. The days were dark and dreary; a time that none of us would ever want to relive. Five long years later, the light shines once again. The happy is back in Happy Valley. A team that was predicted a certain death, along with its coach, was able to survive and prosper. The foundation was too strong to tear away. A statue is nothing compared to the ground it was built upon. Five years later, Success With Honor rages on and The Grand Experiment forges ahead. On this day, we say goodbye with a heavy heart, as much as we say thank you for the guidance and love of Penn State. On this day, five years later, we understand just how strong a legacy Joe Paterno left behind.