Dan Connor: Penn State situation 'sad and disappointing'

IRVING, Texas – This wasn’t just linebacker Dan Connor's first day of practice with the Dallas Cowboys.

It was also his first official day of work after his alma mater faced the ramifications of the ugliest scandal in college football history. It was a symbolic step of moving on from the hideous crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky and the recently exposed cover-up that has rocked Penn State.

“This is the kind of steps that everyone needs to take,” said Connor, who missed offseason workouts while recovering from shoulder surgery after signing with the Cowboys as a free agent. “Move on, work, do your own thing to kind of better the name. They’re going through a tough time up there, so as many alumni and the players up there, as good as they can do, that’s going to turn the name around a little bit.”

Asked if the sickening scandal has influenced how he feels about his alma mater, Connor paused for a moment.

“That’s a good question,” Connor said. “It was sad. It was sad and disappointing. There’s so many great people up there. The players are great. There are so many coaches who were there who might not be there any more. They’re great people, and it’s hard to know that this happened and it’s going to be scarred on them for a while. This is going to be a tough thing to get over.

“At the same time, I still support them. I want them to do great. I hope the guys up there really rally around the coach and rally around Penn State and just go out there and fight.”

Connor, a five-year NFL veteran, admits he wasn’t always a model citizen at Penn State. Head coach Joe Paterno, whose legacy has been disgraced since his death, suspended Connor in 2005 for making prank phone calls to an elderly former Nittany Lions assistant coach.

At this point, Connor has conflicted feelings about Paterno after the legendary coach was exposed for “empowering” a serial child sexual predator, according to the Freeh Report investigation.

“He was definitely wrong and people suffered,” Connor said. “And that’s said, but that’s one thing that happened. He was great when I was there, and we didn’t always get along, and I can say looking back that it’s my fault. I was kind of a jerk and he was trying to straighten me out. He’s a guy that stayed on you for every little thing and he taught character.

“You can’t take away what he did, but at the same time, he was wrong and people suffered.”