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What It Means to Be a Nittany Lion: Joe Paterno and Penn State's Greatest Players Hardcover – September 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"What makes [coaching at Penn State] so much fun and so enjoyable are the young men I have been associated with all this time. Many of them are adults now and successful in their own careers—honest, hardworking, mature men raising their families and being leaders in their communities. . . .They’re all part of our football family, not just the players who made the All-America teams or wear those national championship rings. I mean the walk-ons, too, the kids who rarely played or never played at all—the ones who went to practice day after day after day and never complained because they just wanted to be part of the Penn State tradition."—from the foreword by Joe Paterno

From the Inside Flap

Penn State had been playing football for 63 years before Joe Paterno first stepped on campus as an assistant coach in 1950. The tradition and pride of the Nittany Lions were firmly entrenched by then, with future Hall of Fame coaches like Hugo Bedzek and Bob Higgins leading their teams to undefeated seasons and postseason bowl games. But it was Paterno, a disciple of another Hall of Fame coach, Rip Engle, who turned Penn State football into a symbol of high standards and integrity. No other coach in major college football has won more games at one school than Paterno has, with 354 and counting at the start of the 2006 season. That marked Paterno’s 40th year as Penn State’s head coach in Happy Valley, and it was another banner season—with an 11–1 record, a Big Ten title, an Orange Bowl championship and a third-place ranking in the national polls. In What It Means to Be a Nittany Lion, many of the men who played for Paterno and his predecessors tell, in their own words, what it’s like to wear those plain blue-and-white uniforms and black shoes. The players describe how Paterno and Penn State’s loyal assistant coaches molded their lives years ago and continue to influence them today. These are some of the greatest players in college football history, legends like Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti and Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, who epitomizes Penn State’s enduring reputation as "Linebacker U." All-Americans Charlie Pittman, Dennis Onkotz, Dave Joyner, and others describe Paterno’s ultra-successful "Grand Experiment," which proved that great students can also be great football players. Some of the players never reached All-American status, but they made their mark in other ways, such as walk-on wide receiver Gregg Garrity, one of the stars of the 1983 Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia for Penn State’s first national championship. And Adam Taliaferro, whose miraculous recovery after a paralyzing injury in his freshman season became an inspiration for all Nittany Lions. Lenny Moore, Rosey Grier, and Dave Robinson, all of whom became stars in the NFL, reminisce about playing for Penn State in the pre-Paterno era. Wally Triplett, Penn State’s first black letterman, tells how the battle against racism put the 1947 team at the forefront of the civil rights movement, while Matt Suhey and his uncle Jim Dooley write about the Higgins-Suhey legacy that dates back to 191l and Suhey’s grandfather Bob Higgins, the man who recruited and coached Triplett. Stars like Curt Warner and Shane Conlan relive their experiences during the eighties, a decade in which Penn State won two national championships. There are the tales of Jeff Hartings, an undersized lineman coming out of high school who became a two-time All-American guard and a two-time academic All-American, and another academic All-American, Paul Posluszny, who added to the legend of "Linebacker U" by winning the 2005 Butkus Award and leading Penn State’s resurgence. There’s also the story of a Nittany Lion mascot, not a football player but a young gymnastics coach, named Gene Wettstone, who fortuitously became the team mascot in 1939 and then went on to coach more NCAA gymnastic national championship teams than anyone in history. For anyone who wants to learn or just reminisce about what it means to be a Nittany Lion, this book is a must-have for your library.

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Product Details

  • Series: What It Means to Be
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Triumph Books (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572438460
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572438460
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 8.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John E. Algas on August 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is great book on Penn State's greatest players. Each player tells a story of what means to be a Nittany Lion. I love this book! It is for die-hard Nittany Lions fans or any college football fans! We Are...Penn State!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tim Janson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There has perhaps never been a college football coach more associated with a single university than Joe Paterno is with Penn State. Of course, it only makes sense since JoePa has been coaching at the University for over 50 years including 40 years as the team's head coach. "What it Means to be a Nittany Lion" is a player's and coach's retrospective on playing and coaching at the school. It traces Penn State's rich history of national championships and All-American players, decade-by-decade, sharing fond recollections and stories by some of their greatest players ever.

As a Michigan fan, I have always had tremendous respect for Paterno and Penn State. They do things the right way with class and integrity, just like Michigan. You never hear about scandals there like you do at so many other universities where winning is placed above everything else. Each decade presents some of its most notable players such as Rosey Grier, sharing their stories in their own words. Grier, perhaps best known as a member of the Los Angeles Rams "Fearsome Foursome" actually went to Penn State to compete in Track and Field and was an All-American Shot-putter in 1954.

It was in the 190's when Penn State started to develop its reputation as Linebacker U with players like Jack Ham, Greg Buttle, and Matt Millen but they also produced great offensive talent such as RB Lydell Mitchell. While we all see the loveable, affable, old gentlemen, it's quite evident in reading these players stories that playing for Paterno was no picnic. Former receiver O.J. McDuffie even relates going home in tears once as a freshman because the coaches had been so tough on him. McDuffie persevered and became only the second Penn State receiver to earn first team All-American status in 1992.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. D. Rafferty on January 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I bought the book for my boyfriend, he is a Penn State alum. So far he has really enjoyed the book. It was a great purchase.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Weiler on February 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Great book well written arrived on time in new condition
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