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We Are Penn State – The Hometown View

We Are Penn State
Mario Tama/Getty Images

“We Are Penn State” is a chant heard at all the school’s sporting events, especially during Saturday football games at Beaver Stadium. It can also be heard around campus at just about any time and it’s not unusual for students and alumni to use those three words to close a conversation or even an email.

I have heard those words when wearing a Penn State shirt or hat on many occasions and running into someone with similar garb. For those interested its origin deals with a football game in the 1940’s when the Nittany Lions were playing a southern school who requested that Penn State only bring their white players to the game. Team captain Steve Suhey responded with “We are Penn State, we play all or none” and a legend was born.

Mourners line the sidewalks of College Avenue on the campus of Penn State
Mourners line the sidewalks of College Avenue on the campus of Penn State. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Speaking of legends Joe Paterno was buried in State College Wednesday. The private funeral was held in the campus’ non-denominational spiritual center and was for the most part fairly simple…the way the former football coach liked things. However what took place afterwards was reminiscent of what you might find for a President, King or some other head of state. What made it truly spectacular was that it was not really planned but rather pretty much a spur of the moment gathering organized by students with the word spread through social media.

Mourners line the Curtin Street in State College near the Creamery ice cream shop where "Peachy Paterno" is served.
Mourners line the Curtin Street in State College near the Creamery ice cream shop where "Peachy Paterno" is served. (Alex Williams, Townsquare Media NJ)

As the funeral ended a procession that featured a blue hearse carrying Paterno’s body drove slowly through the campus, past Beaver Stadium and through the town that he helped build over 60 years. Behind the hearse was the bus…the same one used to carry football players to the stadium on game day. Sitting in the front seat that was reserved for Joe was his wife Sue and what she saw was an outpouring of affection. Thousands of mourners lined the route which was 5 deep in some places and many said a prayer, waved, clapped and took pictures as the hearse passed by. Many of them waited hours for that spot, knowing that it would be all over in a matter of seconds but they didn’t care…they just felt like they had to be there. My daughter Alex was among them and she said it was a moving and emotional experience and one she could not miss.

In the beginning I mentioned the “We Are Penn State” chant and I did so for a reason. As the hearse carrying the winningest coach in college football history rolled by Beaver Stadium a fan shouted “You Are Penn State.” It would have been hard to find anyone who would disagree.

 

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