As if trying to catch the eye of pro football scouts wasn’t difficult and stressful enough for former Penn State Nittany Lion players Jon Rohrbaugh and Andrew Szczerba, getting the news their college coach was “near death” made their task even greater Saturday night.
Playing for the American Conference in the inaugural AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Game at Home Depot Center in Carson, California, both players were told about Joe Paterno’s failing health from Tom Flores, their head coach in the game, just before kickoff.
“He was truly a father figure for me and my teammates on and off the field,” said Rohrbaugh, a long snapper in the bowl game. “His line to all of us was always ’Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. “
The 85 year old winningest coach in FBS history, Paterno, who was the Nittany Lions head coach for six decades, is suffering serious complications from treatments for lung cancer that was diagnosed November 18th of last year, just nine days after being fired in the wake of sexual abuse charges against former assistant Jerry Sandusky.
As of Saturday night, Paterno was still connected to a ventilator at Mount Nittany Medial Center in State College, Pennsylvania. His family was debating taking him off the ventilator Sunday morning.