Finally, Coach Paterno got the victory that put him past "Bear" Bryant as the all time winningest coach in college football history. I'm sure that it's a big relief for Coach to finally get it.
I am often asked what it was like to play for Coach Paterno. I would have to say that playing at Penn State is one of my proudest accomplishments. Every kid that grows up in Pennsylvania plays in their backyard and daydreams about being Coach Paterno's quarterback at Penn State. I actually got to do it, and you better believe I'm proud of it!
I've spoken to a lot of players that have come through the Penn State program, and to a man, everyone has always said that when they got to Penn State they were kids, and when they left, we were men. Coach Paterno is a great teacher of football, but he's also a great teacher of life.
My favorite Coach Paterno football story came during practice one day. I was playing quarterback, and everytime my protection broke down, I would scramble outside of the pocket and head for the hills. Coach was screaming at me to stop doing that. He stopped practice, took out a piece of chalk, and drew a huge circle around me in the backfield. "Collins, I don't want to see you outside of this circle. Period." he barked. Sure enough, on the very next play, my protection breaks down. I mean, it's a complete jailbreak, the entire defense is coming after me, so what do I do? I head for the hills!
"Collins!", he screams in that voice of his, "Get out of here! Get out of practice and don't come back until you've learned to stay in the pocket." I'm this scared kid, and I'm thinking, 'Oh my, I just got thrown out of practice by Joe Paterno.' Well, I showed up at practice the next day, and you know what? I stayed in the pocket. Everytime. The man knows how to get a point across.
As I said earlier, Coach teaches his players as much about life as he does about football. When I was going through difficulties in my professional career, Coach would always reach out to me, keep looking after me, giving me advice. Coach Paterno is one of the reasons that I am playing with the New York Giants. Giants G.M. Ernie Accorsi called Coach Paterno and asked him about me. It was some of the things that they discussed that helped persuade the Giants to take a chance on me, something that I will always be grateful for.
When my career is long over, I will be able to tell my children that I played for the winningest coach in College Football history, was the quarterback of an undefeated team that won the Rose Bowl, and most importantly, had the pleasure of knowing the great Joe Paterno -- a true legend. 10/27/01
-- Kerry Collins