In a blog entry at SBNation, Bomani Jones examines Joe Paterno's legacy through the eyes of LaVar Arrington, one of his award-winning players, who had a love-hate relationship with the winningest coach in Division 1 college football.
"I was just having that conversation with my parents last night."
That was LaVar Arrington's immediate reaction when asked Sunday afternoon what Paterno meant to him. It wasn't a simple conversation. Arrington was as individually decorated as any Penn State player had ever been during his three years in State College. He was twice a first-team All-American, collected the Butkus and Bednarik Awards as a junior, and made one of the iconic plays in college football history as a Nittany Lion.
And none of that seemed to be enough to please his head coach. "I felt like we were almost adversaries," Arrington says. "I felt like he didn't like me, and it placed me in a position where I didn't like him."
Things have changed since. Arrington sees his time at Penn State as perhaps the most important in making him who he is today, "a man raising men," as he said. "Now that he's gone, it sucks to have that clarity. I never told him this. He probably went to his grave thinking I didn't like him.
"That sucks, man."
Arrington heard Joe was like everyone's granddad, and he didn't need that. He had a loving family and looked to Paterno for guidance, no differently than he looked to professors for guidance in class. He also didn't appreciate Paterno publicly questioning his intellect — which created a perception about Arrington's brains for years — nor did he like hearing from his head coach that he, the future No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft, wasn't even the best linebacker at Penn State. "I wanted that pat on my back, where he's actually looking at me a certain sort of way about something I did." Instead, he got what he termed "tough love," which often just seemed tough.
Read Bomani Jones' entire column at SBNation.