- Associated Press - Friday, November 11, 2011

Their former coach? Fired in disgrace. Their university? Under attack for fostering a culture of secrecy and cover-ups as part of a devastating child sex abuse-scandal.

But for some former Penn State football players, Saturday’s game is not a time to turn their back on their school. Rather, it’s an opportunity to show their true spirit and passion for the program.

Indeed, it’s a day to stand together and illustrate their support for this season’s Nittany Lions and the scores of students and graduates who have proudly represented the university.

Former Nittany Lions receiver and running back Rich Mauti organized what he hopes will be one of the largest gatherings of former players to stand on the sideline ever. On Saturday, vs. Nebraska in the home finale, they will join in unison.

Mauti sent emails to more than 800 former Nittany Lions and asked them to attend. He wants players who took pride in wearing the school’s classic blue-and-white uniforms, and still carry that pride in their everyday lives. He wants them to return their thanks to a program _ not just a coach _ that gave them so much.

“It’s for the kids that have to go out there on Saturday,” said Mauti, who played under Joe Paterno from 1974-1976 and went on to play in the NFL. “It’s a show of support for that. It’s not going to be banners and flags and bands. It’s going to be the Penn State Way. It’s going to be our presence. Hopefully, we get enough guys there that will mean something.”

Mauti emphasized he’s not forgetting or minimizing the scandal and possible cover-up centered on former assistant and one-time heir apparent Jerry Sandusky.

“I’m not condoning any activities that have been alleged. That’s not the purpose,” he said. “I’m trying to get everyone that has been through that program, that has had a positive experience, to support the kids and the program and the school at this juncture.”

By midweek, Mauti said about 75 players had agreed to attend.

Former Penn State linebacker Buddy Tesner said he will be there to watch a game between two teams jostling for a Big Ten divisional title. Tesner played from 1971-75 and went on to found the Football Letterman’s Club. The mission of the club is to promote Penn State football, improve communication, expand merchandising, and increase membership among former Penn State players and managers.

He said the time is right to stand behind the program.

“I think it’s a great idea to rally the troops to support the team as much as anyone else,” he said. “At the same time, we’re being very careful to make sure that we respect and understand the families that have been affected by all this. We’re not making a statement of innocence or guilt.”

No, but another former Nittany Lion said he hasn’t forgotten Sandusky, even as the former assistant coach stands accused of having sex with young boys.

Sam Stellatella, a three-position player in the 1950s, has donated money to Sandusky’s defense and urged other former players to do the same.

“I told him he’s going to need a million dollars to defend himself,” the 73-year-old Stellatella said. “He called me back and said, `What am I going to do with this money?’ I said, `Use it for your lawyer because you’re going to need it.’”

Story Continues →