Paterno’s son: ‘Dad, you won. You can go home now’

STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - Jay Paterno leaned over his dying father, gave him a kiss, and whispered in his ear.

“Dad, you won,” he said. “You did all you could do. You’ve done enough. We all love you. We won. You can go home now.”

Joe Paterno died Sunday of lung cancer at age 85.

At a memorial service Thursday that drew some 12,000 people to the Penn State basketball arena, Jay Paterno reflected on what he called the “magnificent daylight” of his legendary father’s life. It was primarily a glowing tribute to Paterno and his accomplishments during 46 years as Penn State’s football coach _ but also an opportunity to defend his legacy against criticism that he failed to do more when told about an alleged child sexual assault involving one of his former assistants.

Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight won a thunderous standing ovation when he defended Paterno’s handling of the 2002 allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Paterno, he hinted, had been made a scapegoat.

“If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno’s response,” Knight said. Paterno’s widow, Sue, was among those rising to their feet.

Capping three days of mourning on campus, the 2 1/2-hour ceremony was filled with lavish praise for the man called “JoePa.” Paterno racked up more wins _ 409 _ than any other major-college football coach, led his team to two national championships, and preached “success with honor” while insisting his athletes focus on academics. The Paternos donated millions to Penn State.

The family on Friday offered their thanks for the outpouring of support through an ad on the back page of the campus student-run newspaper, The Daily Collegian. The family plans to run similar ads in other papers as well.

“Thank you,” read the ad which featured the picture of the smiling Paterno used throughout services and tributes this week. “You have touched our hearts and lifted our spirits. The Paterno Family.”

Though the campus and surrounding community have been torn with anger over the Sandusky scandal and Paterno’s summary dismissal by the board of trustees two months before his death, Jay Paterno said his father didn’t hold a grudge.

“Despite all that had happened to him, he never wavered in his belief, in his dream, of Penn State. He told me he wanted to use his remaining time on earth to see Penn State continue to thrive. He never spoke ill and never wanted anyone to feel badly for him,” Paterno said.

Players from each decade of Paterno’s career as the Nittany Lions’ coach spoke in loving terms about their mentor, saying he rode them hard, but always had their best interests at heart and encouraged them to complete their educations and become productive members of their communities.

Among the speakers were Michael Robinson, who played for Paterno from 2002 to 2005 and flew in from Hawaii, where he was practicing for his first Pro Bowl; star quarterback Todd Blackledge from the 1980s; and Jimmy Cefalo, a star in the 1970s. Like Robinson, Blackledge and Cefalo went on to play in the NFL.

Former NFL player Charles V. Pittman, speaking for players from the 1960s, called Paterno a lifelong influence and inspiration.

Pittman said Paterno challenged his young players, once bringing Pittman to tears in his sophomore year. He said he realized later that the coach was molding him into the man he would become.

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