STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Jay Paterno walked over to an acquaintance on the Beaver Stadium field after Penn State lost to Nebraska, 17-14, shook hands and said with a hint of his typical humor, “I’ve had better weeks.”
The quarterbacks coach, the only member of his family still coaching football at Penn State, dropped by his father’s house on his way to work Saturday morning. He had written his parents a letter.
He didn’t stay. He had to maintain his focus on the game.
“That was the extent of it,” Jay said. “I didn’t want to spend a lot of time over there. It was going to be tough for him. It was going to be tough for me. So I dropped the letter off. I said, ‘Don’t read it yet. Let me get the hell out of here before you read that.’ I had to get myself prepped to focus. I had to get ready for this game.”
With receivers coach Mike McQueary being put on administrative leave Friday, someone had to signal the plays into quarterback Matt McGloin. For the first time in his 17 seasons on PSU's staff, Jay Paterno spent the game on the sideline.
Jay had to focus, even as the world in which he had grown up had been turned upside down. Jay had to focus, even though he never slept Wednesday night, the night that Penn State fired his father.
Jay went over to Joe’s house shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday morning and talked to him about what to do. His father quashed any idea that Jay wouldn’t coach.
“He said, ‘You owe it to your kids (players), you owe it to Penn State, and that’s how I raised you,’” Jay said. Still, he added, just walking into the Lasch Football Building on Thursday morning “was tough. I’m not going to lie to you. It was tough.”
Jay Paterno declined to discuss his emotions concerning the firing. But he said his father is doing OK.
“I had my kids over there for dinner Thursday night, and he was actually OK with it,” Jay said. “I thought he’d be like, ‘Get them the heck out of here.’ ... We’ll see. I think he’ll find another challenge.”
Jay said that he and interim head coach Tom Bradley called McQueary from the locker room before the game, but the cell phone connection faltered, and they didn’t really get a chance to talk to him.
So the letter? The one he wrote to his parents? Jay Paterno declined to discuss some of its contents. But he shared one message.
“One of the things I told him,” Jay said, “was that you and I through my life haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. Generally, that’s because I had to grow up and catch up to make eye contact with you. There are a lot of lessons I’ve learned.”