About a year ago, Joe Paterno stepped to the dais at Big Ten preseason media day and a gasp went through the hotel ballroom.
OK, it might not have been that dramatic, but Paterno's appearance in Chicago sparked plenty of concern. He looked frail, thinner and seemed to slur his speech at times despite remaining sharp and funny during his question-and-answer session. A series of health problems in the late spring/early summer appeared to have taken a toll on Paterno.
After Paterno departed the dais, the feeling in the room was that Paterno wouldn't be back in 2011.
Once again, JoePa has proved everyone wrong.
He'll be in Chicago next week for preseason media days. The 84-year-old recently told the Reading Eagle's Rich Scarcella that his health is good and he's looking forward to the 2011 season.
If they call me in and say, "We think it's time to go," I'll go. (But) I feel good. God's been good to me. I really enjoyed this spring. I was a little more active. I'm over the knee and the hip and all that junk. I really have been involved in it more. I think we're going to be a little better football team and we'll go from there.
Paterno added that he has been walking about 90 minutes a day around campus, doing "a lot of exercising."
He also weighed in on his contract, which expires after the 2011 season.
If I want to get out of it, I don't have to worry about reneging on anything. I think if they decide that, "Hey, Paterno's had it," then they have every right to do it. Heck, I'm not a kid. You know what I mean? Whatever's good for the institution is good.
I do feel strongly about the staff, however. I worry more about them taking care of the assistant coaches and all of the other people, the Tommy Venturinos and the Fran Ganters and all those guys who do all the dirty work. I try to make sure the assistant coaches have some kind of stability.
That's good to hear, as Paterno's long-time assistants are in a bit of a holding pattern about the future.
I definitely could see Paterno coaching in 2012 and possibly beyond. It all comes down to his health. If he feels up to it, he'll keep going.
After clearing health hurdles in 2008 and 2010, Paterno appears to be full speed ahead.