December 21 ~  End Zone No Ordinary Joe

"Act like you expect to get into the end zone." ~ Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno

Someone who knew how to get players into the end zone, Penn State football coach Joseph Vincent Paterno (1926–2012) was born on this day in Brooklyn, New York. As a kid, he played touch football and stickball.

"Excellence is something that is lasting and dependable and largely within a person's control. In contrast, success is perishable and is often outside our control. If you strive for excellence, you will probably be successful eventually," he once said.

After a stint in the Army at the end of World War II, "JoePa" played quarterback for Brown University on scholarship and studied English literature, with plans to enter law school. That changed in 1950 when Pennsylvania State University coach Charles (“Rip”) Engle, his former Brown coach, made Paterno his assistant coach.

"Believe deep down in your heart that you're destined to do great things," Paterno said and succeeded Engle in 1966.

The rest is history: 46-years as head coach, two national championship wins (1983 and 1986), five unbeaten seasons, a record 24 victories out of 37 appearances in all five major bowl games, and the most victories for a major-college coach (409).

"Football is part of life--not life itself," he said. In addition to his wins on the field, Paterno was a winner off the field as well. His "Grand Experiment" melded athletics and academics. He taught life lessons for success and made sure his players graduated.

His coaching philosophy emphasized "us" not "me" and "MBA" not "NFL." He said, "Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good."

Through the years, he donated millions to his beloved Penn State for academic and cultural enrichment.

Upon his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007, he said, "There's never been a greater game than football." Or a greater coach.

Believe you can get there and you will.