GREEN BAY – When Andrew Quarless thinks of Joe Paterno, he remembers a man who helped make him into not only the football player he is today but the person he is today.
The Green Bay Packers tight end and Penn State alum just wishes the legendary coach, who died in January at age 85, had heeded his own advice when it came to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.
Quarless spoke with reporters Saturday morning about Penn State for the first time since the most recent developments: Sandusky being convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse; the school's internal investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh concluding that Paterno and three other top school officials concealed Sandusky’s actions to protect him and the football program; and Penn State taking down Paterno's bronzed statue outside Beaver Stadium on July 22, the day before the NCAA imposed sanctions that included a four-year bowl ban and major scholarship reductions.
“Coach Paterno was one of the reasons I went there to play, just to play for a legend. My feelings haven’t changed, but it’s definitely a tough situation when I look at it. I feel like he could have done more, but it’s hard when he’s not alive anymore to really try to talk bad about him,” said Quarless, who played at Penn State from 2006 through 2009.
Quarless said, Paterno had the opportunity to stop Sandusky’s attacks on young boys going back to 1998 and chose not to. That’s “on him,” Quarless said of Paterno.
Quarless, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last December and has yet to practice in training camp, said the way Paterno was viewed in State College, Pa., contributed to his downfall.
“There’s only one God. Only one God. I’m not saying he was a god out there, but they put him on a high pedestal, where it was like he could do no wrong,” Quarless said. “I don’t think you should put anybody above football, above who they really are. That was one of the things I took out of that. They really put him on a big pedestal there, and he could do no wrong, and then when stuff happens it’s, ‘Am I going to take a little blemish on my legacy, or am I going to try to (cover it up)?’ I don’t even want to say that’s what he did, but you can’t explain it. It’s definitely a tough situation.
“I think rather than have a little blemish on his legacy, rather than have his whole legacy erased, I think that was on him and the coaching staff and the whole organization. It was what, 12, 15 years ago? It would have been a little blemish from 12, 15 years ago. Now it’s something real detrimental to his whole legacy, and it’s sad. … It’s a sad story, a sad day in Happy Valley.”
Quarless didn’t seem bothered by the fact that all of the Nittany Lions’ victories from his time there were erased as part of the NCAA’s sanctions. He was bothered by the fact that Paterno, who gave him a second chance after a two-game suspension for underage drinking in 2007 and a DUI arrest in 2008, is no longer viewed the way he was before the scandal.
“I had some hiccups over there at Penn State, which only made me stronger as a person. And that’s one thing I do thank Coach Paterno for, really building me into a person,” said Quarless, whose Penn State career nearly ended in Paterno’s living room following his DUI..
“That’s one of the things, when you look at a lot of alumni, they’ll say the same thing. They really made you into a great person, being accountable, stuff like that – building you into (not only) a good player but a good person. That’s one thing he did do. He was a great coach for that. He had some stern, stern ways that definitely made you tighten your game up. So I can definitely thank him for that.”
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