Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran from inside Iran

As I watched the images from Iran of young protesters being met with police and government crackdowns (including cell phone and facebook), I couldn't help but think of the images from China and Tiananmen Square from 20 years ago.

Rather than try and give insights, I will just let the words of people on the ground speak for themselves. I just pray that this protest ends in a way that is more peaceful, and more just than the resolution of the standoff in China twenty years ago.

A friend of mine came to the United State from Iran and on his facebook site he posted the following items. One is a personal observation he made and the second is a facebook message he received right after the protests began:

The pictures are eerily similar to those that I lived through in 1979. I'm praying for the best. May love and peace prevail.

From within Iran: 'It feels like Martial Law here. Cell phones are down, internet lines are horrible, Facebook is filtered, and ... They have also annoucned there that if someone comes out of their house they will be arrested. So keep your fingers crossed and pray for us. Tomorrow is a great day. I gave you the news. Please try to publish it. Thx."

Here is a report from the New York Times:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Penn State Proud of Success With Honor

At Penn State we are fortunate to have a lot of outstanding young men who fight every day to achieve Success With Honor.

Honor is a lost word in today’s world. But at Penn State, Joe Paterno believes in Success With Honor—and has always believed that he should teach the young men who come here about Honor. Many of them learn about Honor by giving their time and caring for others through outreach and volunteerism to various causes.

Last Thursday Night most of our team participated in the Opening Ceremonies of the Pennsylvania Special Olympics. Many also volunteered throughout the weekend.

This past winter during the Penn State Dance Marathon many of them spent time with the children and their families.

In a little over a month, they will hold the annual Lift For Life—an event that they have organized as a team to help raise funds for Kidney Cancer. (more on that as we approach the event on July 10th but here are highlights from last year's event)

Through all the time demands on them to be winners on the field and in the classroom they find the time to put others first. This is a team that won the Big 10 Football Championship, has the highest NCAA Academic APR Rating in the Big 10, and will post a 90%+ Graduation rate—also the Best in the Big 10. They accomplish all of this while finding time to get involved in the community in so many ways.

There’s a lot for me to brag about. But I wanted to share with you an e-mail I received last Friday from a man who was at the Youngstown United Way Dinner—where our Quarterback Daryll Clark Spoke to a packed House. The e-mail speaks for itself and is being used here with permission of the sender.

Hi Jay,

Just a quick note to let you know that everything that you told me about Daryll Clark during dinner at the PENN STATE event at the Canton, Ohio Football Hall of Fame on May 2nd rang true to me and to hundreds of others tonight in person. My son Aaron and I attended the Ohio Mahoning County United Way “Champions Among US” fundraising dinner earlier tonight in Boardman, Ohio.

You probably know that Daryll and his family were guests at the dinner tonight. Daryll was introduced to a crowd of over 600+ people and delivered a very brief, but positive and moving talk.
He was very polite and professional and spoke very highly of PENN STATE and the entire football coaching staff. He also publicly thanked and acknowledged his mother for all of her support and especially when he attended Kiski Prep. His “never quit” work ethic and attitude were referenced as well.
It was quite obvious to everyone in attendance that Daryll is a real leader and I know that every PENN STATER in attendance is very thankful to have him as one of our 2009 team captains.

Daryll was gracious enough to spend time talking with my son Aaron a 2006 PENN STATE graduate from The Smeal College of Business after the dinner and stand for pictures.

Jay, although I told Daryll this before we left the event tonight, please let him know just how very proud of him that all PENN STATER’s are throughout New Castle, Pa, Youngstown, Ohio and the entire tri state area!
Best of luck and much continued success as you prepare for the summer work outs and camps.
Hopefully we will see you and some members of the squad at the annual “Lift for Life” event on campus on Friday, July10th.

Best Regards,
Samuel M Bernstine

Friday, June 5, 2009

Todd Blackledge Penn State Distinguished Alum

This weekend Todd Blackledge will be honored by Penn State when he is named a Distinguished Alumnus. This is the highest honor that Penn State bestows upon an alumnus and it is one that is well deserved.

From his time at Penn State through his current career at ESPN, Todd has always been a class act. He has always represented Penn State in the highest light.

In the fall of 1980, Todd emerged from a two-way QB battle to win the job over Jeff Hostetler--but not until week four. From 1980-1982 when Todd finished his career, he led Penn State to three consecutive Top 10 finishes—including a National Title in 1982. While being a team leader, earning Academic All-American honors, and winning the Davey O’Brien Award (as the nation’s Top QB) he was also selected to Phi Beta Kappa—the nation’s oldest Academic Honor Society.

He and his roommate—All-American RB Curt Warner helped form the core of the first offense in NCAA History to win the National Title while gaining more yards passing than rushing. In 1982 both Blackledge and Warner finished in the Top 10 in the Heisman Trophy Voting.

As a fourteen year old fan, sitting in section SK that year, there was never any doubt in my mind that Todd would deliver. His game-winning touchdown pass to Kirk Bowman against Nebraska was in the south end zone. That pass, along with the TD pass he threw to Greg Garrity that clinched the National Title against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl—remain iconic moments in the history and legends of Penn State Football.

After 7 years in the NFL (with Pittsburgh and Kansas City) he moved to a career in broadcasting. His talent helped him to move rapidly up the ladder. During his career he was in studio on college football game days for ABC Sports. He then covered the SEC with Vern Lundquist for CBS Sports before coming to ESPN to do Saturday Night games.

He was nominated for an Emmy—alongside people like Tim McCarver and John Madden—and was the only analyst covering college sports to be nominated.

As a coach, I appreciate the demeanor and style with which he covers a game. His insights into how the game unfolds are usually right on—he has a great football mind. From our pre-game meetings on Fridays he gets great information from us as coaches. He then takes that information and transfers it to the fans in a way that is easily understandable—but no so basic as to insult the intelligence of veteran fans.

If you talk to college football coaches, he is easily among the most respected people covering college football today.

What Todd may now be best-known for—is becoming the Emeril Lagasse of College Football. Starting with what was essentially a one-shot profile on a local place to eat during a telecast—Todd’s segment soon became “Todd’s Taste of the Town”. It has even grown to include a corporate sponsor and a tricked-out Tour Bus.

Since watching him play at Penn State I have gotten to know Todd away from the football field. He is a committed family man, someone who truly puts his family first.

He has even started his coaching career—guiding the North Canton Hoover High School Freshman basketball team to an undefeated record this past year.

Todd loves his family, his football and his food—and in that order. One night two years ago, I got to see it first hand. While in Canton, Ohio during May recruiting I was invited over to Todd’s house for dinner. He and his wife cooked out on the grill—dinner included chicken, steak and lasagna all of which were great.

We talked football too—so that covered the food and football.

The family part came after dinner when it was time to throw batting practice. Todd’s got a great yard for wiffle ball, and I soon learned that his sons had advanced skills. It is not everyday that a five-year old can take the pitch of a 38 year old and send it deep.

For those that know Todd as a person and as a professional, we all know that this Honor is well deserved. Everyone here at Penn State is tremendously proud of what he has done, and Penn State is truly a better place for his having been a part of this great institution.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Penn State Pride: It’s About the People

-This is a column that I wrote last fall for the Centre daily Times--I wanted to be sure that I shared it again--as the summer approaches and the season nears. The Football season is about so much more than just what we do and what happens on game days.

On an early September day in 1973 a life of Penn State football memories began at my first game at Beaver Stadium. From the south end zone bleachers I saw the band, watched the players and smelled the cigars and pipes men smoked in the stands. To this day, the smell of cigar or pipe smoke ships my mind back to my early days at a Penn State game. I’m a boy bundled up and seated in the south end zone on one of our trademark cold grey November days.

In the 35 years that have passed since then, I have witnessed — and have been a part of — Penn State football.

When asked about a favorite memory or memories, how could any Penn Stater list just one or two or even 20?

All of us have our own set of memories on the field that mark our ages: Mike Guman scoring on fourth and 1 against Pitt in 1978 to seal an 11-0 regular season. In 1981, Kenny Jackson making an unbelievable spin move on the sidelines against Pitt to spark a 48-14 rout over the country’s No. 1 team. Ten months later Kirk Bowman making the game-winning touchdown catch against Nebraska in the first Penn State home game under the lights. Gregg Garrity’s catch against Georgia…the Fiesta Bowl showdown against Miami...both national Titles.

The memories go on and on and on…..

Being a part of Penn State football has meant so much more than what happens on game day. It is being a part of something so big, it’s being part of The Pride of Lions that encompasses all who love this place and this team. Fans, students and alumni, as well as everyone who works with or plays for our team — are all part of the Pride.

This Pride is about people. I turned five years old in the fall of 1973, when I watched John Cappelletti run into the hearts of America and win the Heisman Trophy. I’d draw pictures for him and send them to work with my father.

I can still see Sports Information Director John Morris handing me an envelope with a signed picture of John Cappelletti inside. Thirty-five years later, that picture is in my Lasch Building office, near drawings my kids make for me.

On Sunday mornings, Ridge Riley — who wrote The Football Letter for the Penn State Alumni Association — would come over to talk with Joe about the previous day’s game. He’d also work on the book he was writing, “The Road To Number One,” a book that is also in my office.

Home games meant excitement and house guests. Friday nights of home games, we’d wait up until my grandparents Alma and August Pohland would arrive from Latrobe. For homecoming, they’d meet us for the parade after they ate at The Tavern. Once a year, Bill Shearer and his wife Bobbi would stay with us—bringing candy for all of us.

Another member of the Pride was my late Uncle George Paterno, who is still talked about fondly by the older writers on the Penn State beat. I can still see him in our house arguing about strategy with my father after every game.

There were plenty of others. Jack Brannigan, a great friend of my parents, used to tell me stories that took place before I was born; watching future NFL Hall of Famers Lenny Moore (Penn State) and Jim Brown (Syracuse) play on the same field.

Tom Runyan,a Delta Chi from the 1940s, was my neighbor when I first moved back to coach here in 1995. He talked about the great players he had seen over the years, but also about taking kegs into the stadium.

There was a great coaching staff, Frank Patrick, J.T. White, Sever Toretti, Jim O’Hara, Dan Radokovich, George Welsh, John Chuckran, Booker Brooks, Bob Phillips, all people who would make a little 5 year-old kid feel like a member of the team when I was around.

Many of these people are gone, but I often think about those who’ve died looking down on us and hoping that we make them proud.

Coaching brought me back to Penn State, and it has been the people and places I’ve come in contact with as a coach that have made the greatest memories.

I’ll never forget standing in a Philadelphia hospital with Kenny Jackson, Bill Kenney and Tim Curley just days after Adam Taliaferro’s injury. When the doctor told Adam’s father that he had a 1 in 10,000 chance to walk again, Andre simply said, “Don’t worry doc, my son’s one in a million.” He was right, but in those earliest, darkest days after the injury who could find that strength?

Anthony Adams’ mother had that strength. Anthony came to us from Detroit, but it was his mother who really got him here. A single mother, Connie raised Anthony to be strong and proud. When Joe and I visited him she took us to their church and told me she was entrusting her son’s future to us.

“I have always been very careful about the men I allow him to be influenced by.” She said.

That meant a lot to Joe and to me. Anthony, now a Chicago Bear, is a loving husband and father. Every time I see him he puts a big smile on my face. Connie, I hope we paid back your trust.

There are great people in some of the toughest places in this country. I’ve stood in inner-city high schools for weapons search lockdowns. At a Youngstown high school game the athletic director’s secretary warned us that they expected some “gun play” after the game and that if we just stood against the wall behind us that we’d be okay.

Seeing so many places and meeting so many people, I realized that Penn State football stands for so much more. It stands for opportunity. It stands for unity, of team, of school, of community. It stands for a place where young men can come get a meaningful education, and play on a great football team. It stands as a place where young men will be judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

My “circle of life” moment in Penn State football really came in 2005. Thirty-two years after I began going to games, my oldest son was about the same age I was in 1973. That season I gained a passion for Penn State football; in 2005 I could see my son gaining that same passion.

In 2005 Michael Robinson passed, ran and bulled his way into the lore of Penn State football. From the fourth and 15 pass against Northwestern through the Orange Bowl, one of Penn State’s all-time gutsiest performances, he would not be denied.

As that magical season started to take shape, I saw my son and how the games were impacting him. I also saw myself. I saw that I was handing down to him the same passion, the same fire and most importantly membership into a bigger family, a Pride of Lions that is Penn State football. All of us — players, coaches, students, alumni and fans — are in the Pride and once in, you never get out.

I’ll be a Nittany Lion until the day I die and that continues to give meaning to the memories I have and will forever create.