Former PSU player says Paterno has been good influence

Bob Campbell was a running back for the Nittany Lions from 1966 to 1968

November 13, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Bob Campbell, shown during his playing days in the late 1960s at Penn State, lives in the Penn National Estates community north of Mont Alto, Pa.
Submitted photo

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. — A Franklin County, Pa., man returned to Penn State University's gridiron Saturday, standing on the sidelines with other past players to support his beloved football program and former coach.

Bob Campbell was a running back for the Nittany Lions from 1966 to 1968, the first years the team was led by legendary coach Joe Paterno. Joe Pa, as the man became known on his way to 409 wins, lost his job last week amid a child sex scandal involving a former assistant coach.

Campbell, now 64, described his initial relationship with Paterno as being similar to that between oil and water. The college running back said they clashed about his performance in practice.

Still, Campbell's respect for Paterno deepened over the years and the two men laughed about one playing-days incident when they spoke at a golf tournament three years ago.

"I went to Penn State with one suitcase and no money. He did more for me ... than anyone could believe," Campbell said. "People don't realize how he affects kids like me who don't have anything."

An avid golfer, Campbell now lives in Penn National's golf course community, where he's surrounded by people he said share his passion for Penn State football. He is a Brunswick, Md., middle school teacher who also coached at Frederick (Md.) High School and Gettysburg (Pa.) College.

He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969.

Campbell said he supported The Second Mile for 25 years. That football charity aiding underprivileged children is where Penn State's former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky met the boys prosecutors allege he molested and abused.

Sandusky, who is charged with 40 criminal counts related to child sex abuse, is free on $100,000 bail, according to published reports.

For his part, Campbell said he had "no idea" what was allegedly happening.

"I think originally you don't believe it," he said.

Founded by Sandusky in 1977, The Second Mile is a good program that helped tens of thousands of children, according to Campbell, who said he wouldn't hesitate to continue supporting the organization.

Campbell credits Paterno for recommending him for his Frederick job after a poor season coaching a team in New York.

"He has been a very positive influence in my coaching career and teaching career," Campbell said.

Although Campbell chooses to keep some of his opinions about the Sandusky scandal private, he did feel it was important to support the players by attending Saturday's game against Nebraska. He said he was among 300 people standing on the sidelines to support the players, program and Paterno.

"I thought the game itself, the kids played hard. It was wonderful," Campbell said.

Penn State fell to Nebraska 17-14.

The students' candlelight vigil and players' prayer session set the weekend's tone, Campbell said.

Only time will tell how a coaching change will affect Penn State football, he said.

"I'll be upset if the kids don't continue to play in the vein we played," Campbell said, saying the program's spirit is independent of its coach.

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