Thousands attend Paterno memorial service



STATE COLLEGE, Pa.,None - A capacity crowd of more than 12,000 packed a Penn State arena for one more tribute to Joe Paterno, the Hall of Fame football coach who died Sunday at age 85 from lung cancer.

The event called "A Memorial for Joe"  capped three days of public mourning for a figure beloved in the Penn State community for his success on the sideline as well as his generosity off the field.

The family of Joe Paterno arrived to a rousing standing ovation.

 Sue Paterno cried as she accompanied her family, including her children and grandchildren, inside the Penn State basketball arena Thursday.

 Ohio State coach Urban Meyer sat near the front of the crowd. Also at the ceremony were Franco Harris, Bruce Clark, Todd Blackledge and Tom Bradley, Paterno's long-time assistant coach who led the team after the school fired Paterno Nov. 9.

A capacity crowd of more than 12,000 was in the center, including more than 10,000 members of the public who snapped up tickets in seven minutes Tuesday. It was the final event to remember Paterno, who died Sunday and was buried on Wednesday.

Numerous players, former players and students took the podium to honor the late coach, recalling their personal memories of a man they all remembered as selfless.

"I played for him. I coached for him. He never took a compliment. He always deflected praise. [He] never thought he was the show. But today my teacher, you have no choice.  Today we're going to show you how much we love you," said Kenny Jackson.

Nike founder and chairman Phil Knight got a standing ovation for defending the late coach's response to an accusation of child sex abuse against a former assistant.

 Knight said that, "If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation, and not in Joe Paterno's response."

 The remark drew a standing ovation from the crowd.

 Knight's comment seemed to refer to Paterno's failure to alert anyone beyond his superiors at the school when he was told of a sex abuse allegation against former assistant Jerry Sandusky. That inaction was a major reason university trustees fired him on Nov. 9, less than three months before his death.

 Knight also asked, "Who is the real trustee at Penn State University?"

Paterno's son, Jay, was the last to speak. 

 "Joe Paterno left this world with a clear conscience. His value and goals were rock across the decades. This man for whom fame was accidental, fame never touched his soul. He takes integrity with his soul forever," Jay Paterno said.

Jay Paterno also shared his last words to his father.

 "In my last words to my father, I kissed him and whispered in his ear and said, 'Dad you won. You did all you can do. You've done enough. We all love you. You won. You can go home now,'" said Jay Paterno.

Emily Howarth was one of many people around State College Thursday who made the trip in after securing a much sought-after ticket to the "Memorial for Joe."

“I grew up watching the football games with my mom so it means a lot to me,” Howarth said. “So I'm really lucky that I got the tickets."

A vehicle carrying Paterno drove down streets lined with well-wishers and mourners to a private burial after a funeral at Penn State's campus spiritual center on Wednesday. Hundreds -- if not thousands -- of alumni, residents and students attended a four-hour visitation Wednesday morning and thousands more attended a 10-hour visitation on Tuesday.

There is an online petition going around looking for support to add Paterno’s name to Beaver Stadium making it "Paterno Field at Beaver Stadium."

"I could understand possibly renaming the whole stadium or doing a naming of the field for Joe,” Penn State fan Bill Neumann said. “That could be a very nice tribute to him."

The petition's organizer said he wants more than 107,000 before taking it to the Penn State Board of Trustees.