Minutes after the family of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno announced this morning that Paterno had died at a hospital in State College of complications from lung cancer, people began to gather at the bronze statue of Paterno on the Penn State campus.
“What we lost today is really really hard to replace. In fact, won’t be replaced, it’s just a sad day,” said former Penn State linebacker Matt Millen. “Guys like coach Paterno rarely rarely come around and they touch many many lives on many different levels, and it’s not just about football, it is way beyond that.”
Paterno’s son Scott tweeted: “My family wants to express our heartfelt thanks to the hospital staff and doctors. They were amazing and caring — Thanks isn’t enough. We would also like to thank all of the tens of thousands of people who have been praying — your kindness continues to sustain us. Finally, to Penn Staters, past and present, know that Dad loves you all and has always loved being part of your family.”
Paterno’s son Jay shared similar sentiments on Twitter: “Our family thanks Penn Staters, students & all people for prayers & support for my Dad. He felt your support in his fight.”
Former President George H.W. Bush released a statement today, calling Paterno “a true icon in the world of sports” and “an outstanding American who was respected not only on the field of play but in life generally … I was proud that he was a friend of mine.”
The Penn State Board of Trustees and University President Rodney Erickson released a statement saying the university plans to honor Paterno “for his many contributions and to remember his remarkable life and legacy.”
In a statement, Penn State President Emeritus Graham Spanier said Paterno was “a distinguished American, a legendary coach, and Penn State’s greatest ambassador. He provided unprecedented leadership for academic advancement, philanthropy, and athletic excellence and integrity for more than 60 years.”
In November, after Paterno was fired in the wake of the child abuse case involving one of his former coaches, students rallied on campus for him, and Paterno thanked his supporters.
“It’s hard for me to tell you how much this means to me,” he said. “I’ve lived through this place, I lived for people like you guys and girls.”