Joe Paterno, who became the winningest major college football coach and the
face of Penn State University only to be fired amid arguably sports' biggest
scandal, died over the weekend. He was 85.
"His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled," the Paterno family said in a statement. "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."
Paterno died of metastatic small cell carcinoma at Mount Nittany Medical Center, the hospital announced.
He was surrounded by family and friends, including ex-players, said Kenny Jackson, a former assistant coach who played wide receiver on the 1982 national championship team.
"I was fortunate. I was at the hospital the last two days, spent time with him and the family -- and it was so good to see them all together," Jackson said. "All the grandkids, everybody was giving Joe love. He died at peace."
Paterno had battled lung cancer since mid-November and had been hospitalized after breaking his pelvis in a fall at his State College home on Dec. 10.
He most recently was hospitalized Jan. 13 for what the family said were minor complications from his lung cancer. However, his health took a turn late this past week, and his wife, Sue, called for members of the Paterno and Penn State families to come say "last goodbyes," Jackson said.
Funeral arrangements are not yet known, Jackson said.
Word of Paterno's death sent Penn State alumni, former players and fans to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to share their thoughts.
"We should not be discouraged by his death but encouraged by his life ... it would be a blessing to impact others the way he did," Devon Still, a Nittany Lions senior defensive tackle, said on Twitter.
The political world also chimed in, both locally and from afar.
"He was an outstanding American who was respected not only on the field of play but in life generally -- and he was, without a doubt, a true icon in the world of sports," former President George H.W. Bush said.
Gov. Tom Corbett said Paterno's "legacy as the winningest coach in major college football and his generosity to Penn State as an institution and to his players stand as monuments to his life."
Added Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald: "Beyond the football field, JoePa helped make Penn State the university that is so highly regarded today."
Paterno's full-time successor as head coach, Bill O'Brien, released a statement hours before his New England Patriots, for whom he is offensive coordinator, were scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game.
"We also offer our condolences to the Penn State community and, in particular, to those who wore the Penn State colors, our Nittany Lion football players and alumni," said O'Brien, hired early this month to replace interim head coach Tom Bradley. "Today they lost a great man, coach, mentor and, in many cases, a father figure, and we extend our deepest sympathies.
"The Penn State football program is one of college football's iconic programs because it was led by an icon in the coaching profession in Joe
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