endear him to his fellow assistants, he won them over with his brains and his
immense capacity for work.
The staff's closeness was fostered by their Thursday evening ritual. That night, Mr. Paterno, the only bachelor, would join his colleagues and their spouses for drinks and dinner.
"We used to say, 'The hay's in the barn.' And we'd go out and relax. I got to like the people," he said. "I liked coaching."
There for life
Mr. Paterno married Sue Pohland, a librarian, in 1962. They would have five children. In 1966, they purchased a four-bedroom ranch house on McKee Street adjacent to campus, and they never left.
That was the year the 60-year-old Engle announced his retirement. Mr. Paterno, as expected, was named his replacement, commanding a salary of $20,000 a year.
His work habits and intensity -- both already at a high level -- ratcheted up. His first team went 5-5, and when the '67 season began with a loss, his career record was 5-6. It was the last time it ever fell below .500.
With recruits like Ted Kwalik, Jack Ham, and Steve Smear -- all from football-crazed Western Pennsylvania -- things began to turn around.
The '67 Nittany Lions rallied to finish at 8-2-1 and earned Mr. Paterno the first of his record 37 bowl appearances.
Penn State was undefeated in 1968 and 1969, and the reputation of the team and its quirky coach burgeoned. Many believed the all-American-laden '69 team should have been national champions. But after President Richard Nixon visited the University of Texas locker room and unofficially declared them No. 1, the Longhorns took the final poll's top spot. The Nittany Lions were No. 2.
Mr. Paterno never forgave Nixon. When the coach delivered Penn State's commencement address in 1973, he referenced the slight. "How could Nixon know so little about Watergate," he asked sarcastically, referencing the scandal, "and so much about football?"
Thanks to his team's continued success and his own candor, Mr. Paterno's bespectacled face soon became one of the most recognizable in college sports. That fame expanded in 1973 after Monsignor Bonner High graduate John Cappelletti became the first Nittany Lion to win a Heisman Trophy.
Cappelletti's acceptance speech, in which he tearfully dedicated the trophy to his younger brother Joey, then dying of leukemia, became the subject of a popular made-for-TV movie and cemented his coach's saintly image.
So did Mr. Paterno's most serious flirtation with the NFL that same year.
Patriots owner Billy Sullivan wanted the Penn State coach badly. To get him, he offered a multimillion dollar package that included cars, country-club memberships, and part-ownership in a team that 39 years later is valued at $1.4 billion.
Mr. Paterno initially accepted. But, after a sleepless night, he canceled a scheduled news conference in New York and decided to stay at Penn State, getting a new long-term deal out of the flirtation.
In explaining why, Paterno pointed to a lesson he'd learned from Aeneas.
"When you choose wrong, as Aeneas found out, life comes down on you with some terrible whacks," he said.
His Nittany Lions went 12-0 that season and finished No. 3 in the final polls. While Penn Staters were upset at the poll-voters' ongoing lack of
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