Joe Paterno, the college football coaching Methuselah from Penn State, dusted off his traveling sales routine and took a quixotic run at the nation’s No. 1 recruit today.
Paterno, 81, traveled to Jeannette, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh, in an 11th-hour bid to recruit quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who has shown great ambivalence about the Nittany Lions and seems headed to Big 10 rival Ohio State.
Once there, Paterno wasted little time in getting his point across:
“I’ve heard you say you don’t think Penn State’s the place for you, and I wanted to ask you this: What the heck do you know, young man?”
Paterno’s approach apparently caught the youngster off guard.
“I’m very humbled that you came to see me in person and all, and I respect all that you’ve accomplished at Penn State, but … ” Pryor stammered before he was interrupted by the surly octogenarian.
“I asked you a question, young man, and when an elder asks you a question, you show respect and answer politely: What the heck do you know? You ever heard of Sammy Baugh? Bobby Layne? Sonny Jurgensen? Y.A. Tittle? I didn’t think so. Did you know I played quarterback – and defensive back – when I was at Brown? I know a thing or two about a thing or two, young man. Trouble with you kids today, you’re coddled and spoiled and unwilling to listen to anybody who says something you don’t want to hear.”
“I’m sorry. I just don’t know about the area up there,” said the flummoxed teenager, referring to State College, Pa., a rural hamlet isolated in the center of the state.
“You don’t know about that area? Let me tell you something about that area, young man,” Paterno said. “That area is a place where a young knucklehead such as yourself can grow into a man, learn to be a good citizen and, if you pay your dues and are patient and have a little bit of luck, can develop into a pretty fine college quarterback.”
Pryor, 6-foot-6, 235-pound phenom who has narrowed his list of colleges to Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon and Penn State, couldn’t seem to forestall Paterno’s attack.
“Another thing you might not know, young man, but we got another pretty fine quarterback from around here a few years back,” the coach said. “His name is Anthony Morelli, and he didn’t think Penn State was for him, either. But we changed his mind. And he stayed patient, waited his turn and was our starter for his junior and senior seasons. A lot of people like to talk about Tim Tebow this and Tim Tebow that, but Anthony showed a little bit about what maturity can do. He threw 31 TD passes in his career, only one fewer than Mr. Heisman Trophy had (last season).”
Pryor thanked Paterno, wished him luck and said it it’d been a great honor to get a visit from a football legend.
“An honor? An honor? Give me a break,” Paterno said. “What the heck do you know, young man?”