MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Former Miami Dolphin and Penn State player Troy Drayton feels a feels a touch of sadness with the passing of his former coach Joe Paterno.
“He gave me an opportunity to get an education and play Division 1 football,” said Drayton.
Paterno, 85, died from complications of lung cancer less than three months after he was ousted amid a child sex abuse scandal involving one of his former assistants.
“His expectations in me were more than I had for myself. For me to walk on at Penn State and get drafted in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft just told me that he pulled out of something I didn’t think I had,” said Drayton. “But more importantly, I kept a promise and graduated in 2008, so I completed the trifecta as far as Penn State goes.”
Drayton, who played for the Dolphins from 1996 through 1999, said it’s unfortunate that Paterno’s legacy will always be tarnished by the sex abuse scandal.
“It’s sad because of what coach Paterno has accomplished. I would think coach Paterno would live forever, because he is immortal in a sense. When you think about his legacy, his legacy has been stained because of this controversy, this scandal going on at Penn State,” said Drayton. “To me, they made it more of a Joe Paterno football situation than a Jerry Sandusky situation. Unfortunately, it stained Coach Paterno’s great legacy.”
Paterno, the winning coach in major college football, was fired by the university on November 9th, 2011. The storied career of “JoePa” included 409 wins in 46 seasons and two national championships. In all, Paterno guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons.
“The respect you have for coach Paterno is balanced. When you look at the things he’s done for this program, for this town of State College, for the state of Pennsylvania, you can’t measure what one man means to one university,” said Drayton.
Drayton said he’s talked with some of his former Penn State players about the impact Paterno has had on their lives.
“We’re talking about the good times, what Penn State means to us, but more importantly what coach Paterno and the program has done for us and our lives,” said Drayton.
Paterno had been hospitalized since Jan. 13 for observation for what his family had called minor complications from his cancer treatments. Saturday night the Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn told the Associated Press that “Over the last few days Joe Paterno has experienced further health complications. His doctors have now characterized his status as serious.”
Sunday morning Paterno’s family announced his death.
“He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far-reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”