NEW YORK -- The College Football Hall of Fame news
conference had already started by the time Joe Paterno showed up
and grabbed his seat at the end of the dais.
"I apologize for being one year and 20 minutes late," the
80-year-old Penn State coach said.
No apologies necessary, JoePa.
The second-winningest coach in the history of major college
football was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, but his induction
had to be put on hold because this time last year he was recovering
from a broken leg which was the result of two players ran into him
during a game.
The rest of the class of 13 new hall of famers, including 1984
Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie and former Oregon star Ahmad
Rashad, were voted in earlier this year and inducted at a banquet
Tuesday night at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in midtown Manhattan.
Paterno, who led Penn State to an 8-4 record this season, was
hoping to take his children back to his old neighborhood in
Brooklyn while he was into town, but he's been too busy.
"I'll always be a New Yorker. It's great to come back," he
On Monday night, Penn State threw a reception at another
Manhattan hotel for Paterno. About half of the 400 people who
showed up were Paterno's former players, including Franco Harris,
John Cappelletti and Lydell Mitchell and Todd Blackledge.
"So many of the kids came back," Paterno said. "It was very
emotional. I didn't get to spend enough time with any of them. It
was like holding court."
Paterno also found out at the reception that two of his friends,
Patrick and Candace Malloy, of Key Largo, Fla., donated $5 million
to Penn State to endow the position he has occupied for 42 seasons.
It's the largest donation ever given to Penn State athletics.
Paterno will complete his 58th season at Penn State in the Alamo
Bowl on Dec. 19 against Texas A&M. No other major college coach has
been at one school longer and his 371 career victories ranks second
only to Bobby Bowden (373).
Bowden and Paterno were supposed be inducted into the Hall of
Fame together last year, but Paterno was still gimpy from surgery
to repair a broken left shinbone and torn ligaments in his knee.
"I'm only sorry I wasn't here last year with Bobby Bowden,
somebody I respect so much; somebody I think has done a magnificent
job at his school," Paterno said. "We've been very fortunate.
God's given us good health. Every once in a while you get a little
sloppy on the sideline and let somebody run into you."
Paterno became the head coach at Penn State in 1966, before any
of the 12 players in the latest hall of fame class started college.
Chris Zorich, who played defensive tackle for Notre Dame from
1988-90 and was the youngest member of the induction class,
marveled at how Paterno's career has spanned generations of college
"He represents what college football is supposed to be about:
Tradition and building character," Zorich said. "It's not about
hiring a new guy every three, four years."
The rest of the new Hall of Famers were: Oklahoma center Tom
Brahaney; Michigan defensive back Dave Brown; Clemson linebacker
Jeff Davis; Texas defensive back Johnnie Johnson; Ohio State
quarterback Rex Kern; Indiana running back Anthony Thompson;
Houston defensive tackle Wilson Whitley; Dartmouth linebacker
Reggie Williams; and Southern California linebacker Richard Wood.
Former Central Michigan coach Herb Deromedi, who led the
Chippewas to 14 winning seasons from 1978-83, was the other coach
going into the hall.
Brown and Whitley, the 1976 Lombardi Award winner, are both
deceased and were represented by their wives.
"It's a huge validation, knowing he made a contribution to this
great institution of college football," said Norma Whitley, whose
husband died in 1992 of a heart attack at the age of 37.
Brown, part of a Michigan defense from 1972-74 that recorded 11
shutouts in 33 games, died in 2006 at 52 of a heart attack.
"He was an exceptional man. Not only an exceptional football
player, but an exceptional father and an exceptional husband,"
said Rhonda Brown, who attended the news conference with her sons,
Aaron, 27, and Sterling, 25.
At the banquet, Texas center Dallas Griffin was given the Draddy
Award as college football's top scholar-athlete.
Paterno, who said recently he feels like he can coach at least
another three more years, didn't anticipate a long coaching career
when he got into it as an assistant at Brown, his alma mater.
Penn State also announced that two of Paterno's friends donated
State coach a surprise gift -- a $5 million donation to endow the
position Paterno has occupied for 42 seasons.
"My dad wanted me to be a lawyer. I started coaching to save
some money and pay off some debts we had before I started Boston
University Law School," he said. "Then I get hooked.
"My Mom got on the phone and said 'What did you go to college
for?' My dad said 'Whatever you're going to do, have an impact.'
"I think he'd be proud."