- Associated Press - Sunday, January 22, 2012

Former Penn State star Lydell Mitchell visited Joe Paterno about a week and a half ago, hoping to get just a moment with his ailing coach.

After an emotional hour and a half, Mitchell said goodbye and told Paterno that he would always have the support of his players.

“I said, `Hey, man, we love you.’ We’ll fight the fight for him,” Mitchell said Sunday after Paterno died at age 85.

Joe’s legacy will always be intact because we won’t let Joe’s legacy die,” said Mitchell, who played running back at Penn State from 1968-72.

Paterno won more games (409) than any coach in major college football history during 46 seasons at Penn State.

“I think history will say that he’s one of the greatest,” former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, second on the wins list, told The Associated Press. “Who’s coached longer? Who’s coached better? Who’s won more games? Who’s been more successful than Joe? Who’s done more for his university than Joe? You’ve lost one of the greatest. He probably means the same thing up there that Bear Bryant meant down here. He’s an icon.”

Sports figures by the dozen, including many Penn State alumni, and fans by the thousands paid tribute to Paterno after the longtime coach died from complications of lung cancer less than three months after he was ousted amid a child sex abuse scandal involving one of his former assistants.

“It’s just sad because I think he died from other things than lung cancer,” former Penn State tight end Mickey Shuler said.

Before the Penn State wrestling team faced Iowa at Rec Hall on the State College, Pa., campus on Sunday afternoon, a moment of silence was observed.

When it was over the capacity crowd of more than 6,500 gave a 30-second standing ovation while an image of Paterno flashed on two video boards.

The screen flashed the words “Joseph Vincent Paterno. 1926-2012,” just below the digitized picture of a smiling Paterno, wearing a blue tie and blue sweater vest with arms crossed across his chest.

“Please recognize now the passing earlier today of Penn State educator, philanthropist and coach, Joe Paterno,” the announcer said.

“With coaching milestones too significant too list and impact too substantial to measure, JoePa _ as he is known to Nittany Lion fans everywhere _ will forever be remembered as a man whose family includes a team, a university and an entire sport,” the announcer said. “Thank you Coach Paterno.”

There also were moments of silence at Penn State men’s and women’s basketball games.

Former Penn State assistant coach Tom Bradley, who was interim coach for the Nittany Lions after Paterno was pushed out, called his former boss his “mentor for 37 years.”

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