Amid Freeh report fallout, Penn State players raise money for charity

Posted: July 14, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - For months, Penn State football players had been planning their annual fund-raising exhibition of strength to raise what they hoped would add up to more than $100,000 for kidney cancer research.

However, before the start of "Lift for Life," reporters asked few questions about the event and many on the Freeh report and the ugly disclosure that legendary coach Joe Paterno knew about convicted former assistant Jerry Sandusky's crimes as far back as 1998.

"Absolutely, it's being overshadowed, and that's unfortunate," running back Silas Redd said. "But we appreciate everyone who's out here supporting us and anyone in the nation that's supporting us, because we had nothing to do with anything."

That's the general feeling of Penn State's players on the heels of Freeh's damning report, a document that has sparked nationwide outrage against the university and its football program by showing Paterno wielded power and influence over important decisions in the Sandusky matter.

By and large, the players said that they didn't pay attention to the release of the report Thursday and that it had not changed their opinion of Paterno.

"Not at all," senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said. "I'm still a big supporter of Coach Paterno. He's one of the reasons that I'm here. Nobody's perfect. That's basically all you can say. No man is perfect at all."

Senior quarterback Matt McGloin, who came to Penn State as a walk-on, said: "Coach Paterno gave me the opportunity to play here, an opportunity a lot of coaches didn't, so to that I owe my career to him, and that's it."

Redd was asked if the show of support for Paterno sent a wrong message to critics who feel the veteran coach lied about the extent of what he knew and didn't do enough to prevent Sandusky from molesting more young boys.

"They don't know him like we know him," Redd said. "An opinion is an opinion. Everybody's going to have one."

While players said they didn't talk about the report, some said it was difficult to avoid the fallout.

"We didn't talk about it at all," Hill said, "but you can't not watch or hear any of it. It's out everywhere. Anything socially that we do, you're going to hear about it. But we just don't talk about it because we've got to get focused on this season.

"I really haven't tried to put too much thought into it. I can't get too emotionally into all this yet. I've got to get focused on this last year, getting this team focused for this upcoming season. It's a big year for us in the midst of everything that's happened, and it's Coach [Bill] O'Brien's first season."

Defensive end Pete Massaro, a graduate of Marple Newtown High in Delaware County, said players ran and lifted Thursday rather than watch TV coverage of the report. He said all the negative news "hasn't been an issue for anybody."

"People may underestimate the mental toughness of this team," he said. "It doesn't matter what's going on outside the walls of our building. Inside the building, we're a tight-knit group. We've been through a lot and we're kind of conditioned to have that response, to just do the things that we need to do in tough times instead of kind of overreacting and getting caught up in it."

Some players declined to talk about what, if any, punishment the NCAA might decide to impose on the program, or whether the death penalty - which would mean no football for a year - might come into play. But Hill sounded concerned.

"You hear the death penalty and you think it really can't happen," he said. "But you just don't know what's going to happen. But at the same time, we can't think about 'What if this happens?' because nothing has happened yet. When that time comes, if it comes, then we'll worry about it."

When Lift for Life was over, players had pushed cars, hoisted 20-pound weights over a bar, lifted tires end over end, and engaged in tugs of war before a few thousand fans at the university's lacrosse field. And they hoped they had proven something to critics.

"We do a ton of community service," Massaro said, "and this is a chance for us to show where our values and where our morals are. It's an event that we love, and we don't think it should be overshadowed by anything that's going on."


Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.

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