The passing of a beloved coach is never easy for those that played for him or her, but former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was of iconic status. Though his legacy was clearly tarnished at the end by a sex scandal involving a former assistant coach that led to Paterno's dismissal after 46 years, his former players were mourning Paterno's passing over the weekend.
Current Bills safety Bryan Scott from the class of 2003 in a live interview with CNN Monday morning chose only to speak from his personal experience with Paterno as his head coach, knowing how frayed public opinion is regarding his former coach in the wake of the university scandal.
"Everyone is going to have their different views and opinions, which is fine," Scott told CNN's Soledad O'Brien. "I can't sit here and try to convince people of how great a man coach Paterno was. I can just speak to what he meant to me and the legacy he left behind to me. A lot of his morals and values and fundamentals that he coached and taught I'll carry on with me for the rest of my life."
Seeing Paterno pass after a short battle with lung cancer, Scott openly admitted that he almost expected Paterno to leave this life quickly after he was no longer coaching.
"I have to be honest with you. Coach Paterno always talked about Bear Bryant and when he got finished coaching (at Alabama) that a few months later he had passed away. Coach Paterno always said that he didn't like to golf on Saturday, he didn't like to mow his lawn. He said he didn't even know where the forks and knives went in his kitchen. Football really was his life. I just had a feeling that once everything transpired and he moved away from football that this was going to happen. It's sad."
Former Bills All-Pro linebacker and Penn State All-American Shane Conlan took Paterno's passing a step further. In an interview with WGRZ Channel 2's Stu Boyar, Conlan indicated that the way his football coaching career ended may have contributed to his passing.
"Obviously our first thoughts were for the families of the victims, but I sat with Joe a month ago and he truly thought he was doing the right thing," said Conlan by phone. "The guy was the toughest man I ever met. I just hope to God he didn't die of a broken heart."
Conlan told WGRZ that along with his father, Paterno was the most influential person in his life.
"He had everything to do with me," said Conlan. "He made me a better man. He made me a better father. He made me a better husband. Obviously the football would take care of itself because everyone knows what kind of coach he was. Football was important to him, but that's not why he stayed at Penn State for all those years. He wanted to mold young men. Other than my father he made me the man I am today."
Scott echoed some of those same sentiments knowing how much the university meant to Paterno.
"His time there at Penn State, he just gave so much to it," said Scott. "Football was his life, the student athletes, the university. He poured his all into it."
Paterno died Sunday. He was 85.