neighborhood passion. As a youngster in Flatbush, he liked to be the
quarterback, the shortstop, the point guard, the coach.
At Brooklyn Prep, he became a student leader and class salutatorian. He starred on the football and basketball teams.
It was at that Jesuit high school that he encountered The Aeneid. Virgil's poem about an idealistic hero transformed Mr. Paterno.
"I don't think anybody can get a handle on what makes me tick as a person, and certainly can't get at the roots of how I coach football, without understanding what I learned from the deep relationship I formed with Virgil," Mr. Paterno wrote in his 1971 autobiography. "Once a person has experienced a genuine masterpiece, the size and scope of it last as a memory forever."
Brooklyn Prep lost just once his senior year, to a St. Cecelia's team coached by a young Vince Lombardi. Mr. Paterno earned all-city honors. He graduated in 1945 and entered the Army.
By that time, through the efforts of a wealthy New York alumnus, he'd earned a scholarship to Brown University.
At the Ivy League Providence school, largely populated by the prosperous sons of Brahmin New Englanders, Mr. Paterno encountered a stinging rebuke.
Wearing a white sweater to his first fraternity party, the swarthy, bespectacled Italian freshman felt instantly out of place.
"I walked into a calm sea of blue blazers, sharkskin suits, and Harris tweeds," he wrote. "I knew I had blown something when all those cool-eyed faces turned toward me and my sweater. . . . I heard somebody whisper, 'How did that Dago get invited?' They never asked me back."
It was at Brown, though, where he also encountered the man who would become his professional mentor. Rip Engle, a silver-haired, native Pennsylvanian, was the Bruins football coach. He took a liking to the older of the two Paterno brothers on his team (George was a running back).
By his senior year, Mr. Paterno, a ball-hawking defensive back, was the quarterback and Engle's representative on the field.
Arriving in Happy Valley
After graduation in 1950, Mr. Paterno intended to fulfill the promise he'd made to his parents and enter law school. He'd already been accepted to Boston University and borrowed $1,000 from his father.
But that same spring, Engle was hired to replace Joe Bedenk as Penn State's head coach. Though Engle hoped to install his beloved Wing-T offense there, none of the assistants he'd been contractually required to keep knew much about the scheme.
Unable to secure an additional hire for his staff, Engle turned to his graduating quarterback. Mr. Paterno reluctantly agreed to accompany Engle to State College as an assistant, but stipulated that his stay likely would be brief.
The two men arrived in State College late on the afternoon of May 27, 1950. Mr. Paterno, 23 and a bachelor, would spend the rest of his life in the Centre County college town.
He was not impressed. Unable to find a good plate of spaghetti or an opera, he called it a "cow town" and advised Engle to start looking for a replacement.
But coaching grew on Mr. Paterno quickly. He not only stayed but over the next 16 years gradually became Engle's most trusted aide and heir-apparent, as well as one of his key recruiters. Though his brashness did not immediately
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