The fallout from the child abuse scandal rocking Penn State continues this week. Joe Paterno has yet to learn his immediate future, but many believe it’s just a matter of when, not if, that the legendary football coach is relieved of his duties. Earlier today, Paterno said he’ll retire at the end of this season, but it’s yet to be seen if the Board of Trustees lets Paterno finish out the season. Regardless of whether he was complicit in even the slightest, Paterno will have his previously pristine legacy tarnished by the horrific acts committed by long time assistant Jerry Sandusky.
One of Paterno’s former players, Adam Taliaferro, who was paralyzed temporarily after just five games in his collegiate career, was asked about his emotions and reactions to the scandal on Tuesday. Taliaferro was treated extremely well by the university and by Joe Paterno and the football program in particular. Despite his career-ending injury, Taliaferro received world class treatment, was kept around the program, and was cared for diligently and graciously by Paterno and his family and the rest of the university while he rehabbed and pursued his college degree. Taliaferro has since overcome his paralysis and is now walking again thankfully, so needless to say he holds the university in a very special place in his heart. So let’s hear what he had to say about the awful mess still playing itself out up in Happy Valley.
Taliaferro joined WIP in Philadelphia to talk about being distraught about the entire situation unfolding at Penn State, seeing Jerry Sandusky work out in the team’s gym almost every day during the time he was there (2000-2005) even though the former assistant had retired in 1999, how he had always associated Sandsuky with the charitable work he did for kids through his The Second Mile foundation, how he had never even heard one slightest bit of rumor or chatter about Sandusky possibly being up to no good before the news broke late last week, the close relationship he developed with Joe Paterno and his wife and kids while at Penn State, how he still can’t believe what happened or put into words how he feels about the negative spotlight the university is in, and how despite all of this he’ll still always be thankful for his time at Penn State and be proud of being an alum.
On being distraught about the whole scandal rocking Penn State right now:
“Yeah, it really is like a nightmare. This is the last thing…I don’t think I could have even dreamed up something like this. It hurts, it hurts for all parties involved, first and foremost the alleged victims. You know, if this is true it’s horrible. I read the indictment and it’s horrible. I mean you can’t put it any other way. I know all these people like family and it’s tough.”
What years was he at PSU?
So Sandusky was around but not officially part of the coaching staff then:
“He retired in ’99, I got there in 2000, but I saw the guy in our gym and worked out with him every morning; I saw this guy every day. And he’s a normal guy, a guy who, like I said, I talked to on a daily basis. He had The Second Mile Foundation, I spoke at his events, and we all just thought it was a great thing he was doing for kids. His son John is a friend of mine, and for me it’s just shocking.”
Were there never any rumors or murmurings about Sandusky over all the years he was there?
“Never. Like I said, I was up there during some of those times of some of those alleged incidents and I’m up there all the time, and that’s what’s so shocking about it. You’d think you hear about that or a rumor, but I can honestly 100 percent tell you I didn’t hear anything like that. So I was just as shocked as everybody else when the news came out. The first thing I said was ‘oh man, this can’t be true, I know this guy, he’s the last guy who would ever do something like that I would think.’ I always thought of him as the guy that helps kids, that’s it. You think of Jerry Sandusky, I think of The Second Mile Foundation and all of the stuff he’s done for kids. It’s devastating when you hear what happened and read the indictment and see the horrible things that are outlined in that.”
Does he feel betrayed by the people responsible for this from Sandusky to those who helped cover his crimes up:
“I don’t think I feel betrayed. For the most part I don’t feel like I’ve had enough time to sit down and really put this thing into perspective. I mean, you can’t really put this into perspective, but just kind of understand what happened. Last week this time, I’m excited about the Nebraska game talking crap to people about how great Penn State. Now it’s just like ‘what the heck just happened.’ I’m kind of still at a loss for words. It’s hard. I know those guys, I knew all those guys and grew close to them over the last 11 years. And to see them, for this to happen, and for the victims to be going through this, it’s just sad.”
If he still talks to Coach Paterno:
“Yeah, whenever I go up there. He’s a guy who the first thing he says is, ‘is there anything I can do to help you?’ Like I said, I played in five games up there before I got hurt, but he cared about me more than I think any of the players that were All-Americans. And it’s not only Coach Paterno, it’s Mrs. Paterno who would drive down to the hospital every week and bring cookies. Their sons Jay and Scott and their daughters, like I said, they’re like family to me. I don’t know, you just kind of wonder what’s next and where everyone goes from here.”