Chicago Sun-Times
with Tina Akouris

What Joe Paterno meant to Pat Fitzgerald

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Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is the type of guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and so it went when he spoke of his admiration for Penn State coach Joe Paterno. Paterno won his 400th game against the Wildcats in 2010 in State College, Pa. and Paterno tied the all-time record for Division I victories against the Wildcats this past October -- right before Jerry Sandusky was arrested. And it was at that October game at Ryan Field, with Paterno sitting up in the press box that the 85-year old coach asked to meet Fitzgerald's three boys during halftime. It was a moment that Fitzgerald treasured, even though his boys may not have understood the impact of it yet.

Paterno always had a place in Fitzgerald's heart and vice versa. After that 400th victory in State College the two huddled together, head to head, but Fitzgerald never divulged what Paterno told him. "I'd rather keep that between us," he said at the time.

Upon Paterno's death Sunday morning, Fitzgerald released this statement:

"Coach Paterno poured his heart and soul into a football program and university, helping countless young men reach their dreams and goals on the football field before moving on to successful careers and lives as adults. It's hard to fathom the impact that coach Paterno has had on college football and at Penn State."

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I can confidently say that a great many PSU alums have tremendous admiration for Coach Fitzgerald and what he is doing at Northwestern. I am stunned that he made the trip to University Park in the home stretch of recruting. He was a great friend to Joe.

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This page contains a single entry by Tina Akouris published on January 22, 2012 4:35 PM.

Former Wildcat golfer David Lipsky wins Asian Q School was the previous entry in this blog.

Wildcats need to practice sharing before Purdue comes to town is the next entry in this blog.

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