improving Penn State's faculty and academic standing.
That reformer's image was forever embedded in the public's mind in 1973 when he turned down an offer from the NFL's Patriots to become football's first million-dollar coach. Over the years, he would also reject overtures from other colleges and at least a half-dozen NFL teams, including Leonard Tose's Eagles.
Mr. Paterno was, in many respects, a complex jumble of contradictions.
He was a Renaissance man thriving in a profession with an inherent anti-intellectual strain. He was a streetwise city kid who spent the bulk of his life in bucolic Central Pennsylvania. And though he counseled his players to use football as a means toward a fuller life, he himself was consumed by the game.
Still, his image was revered enough, especially in Pennsylvania, that Mr. Paterno, who described himself as a socially liberal, fiscally conservative Republican, was occasionally asked to run for public office.
Among those who made overtures was President Gerald Ford. Mr. Paterno delivered a speech seconding the nomination of President George H.W. Bush at the 1988 GOP convention, and in 2004 introduced Bush's son, George W. Bush, at a rally.
Mr. Paterno's final November would prove to be the cruelest month of his long life. On Nov. 18, family members revealed that he had been diagnosed with what they termed a treatable form of lung cancer.
The chemotherapy and radiation treatments that followed cost him his trademark vitality and thick hair and, according to the lawyer representing him in the Sandusky case, produced occasional memory lapses.
Long a media favorite, Mr. Paterno gave the last of thousands of interviews to Washington Post writer Sally Jenkins on Jan. 12 and 13. In it, the coach, his body and voice weakened by the illness, expressed concern for Sandusky's alleged victims, said he wished he had done more after learning of an alleged assault on a young boy in a football-building shower, and outlined the cold and terse details of his firing.
Straight out of Brooklyn
Joseph Vincent Paterno was born on Dec. 21, 1926, to first-generation Italian parents in Brooklyn's Flatbush section, a crowded, noisy neighborhood that by virtually any measurement was a million miles away from Happy Valley.
Mr. Paterno would never shed the nasal New York accent, the attitude, and aggressiveness he developed there. Even at 82, after over 50 years in Central Pennsylvania, he said: "I'm a New Yorker. I'll always be a New Yorker."
His father, Angelo, was a New York Supreme Court clerk who studied nights and eventually earned his law degree. It was a lesson in perseverance his son never forgot.
Mr. Paterno would prove to be an amalgam of his parents' most notable qualities. While his father was an opera-loving, Rooseveltian idealist, his mother possessed a more practical toughness, something her oldest child, always the brightest light in her eyes, also inherited.
"Mom never took a backseat to anyone, any place, any time," Mr. Paterno said. "If she couldn't be the head of the pack, she wouldn't go."
The oldest of three children -- he had a brother, George, who died in 2002, and a sister, Florence -- Mr. Paterno was a striver. An eager student and natural leader, he adopted those traits to play the sports that were a
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