Joe Paterno Dies at 85; Detroit Lions Connection

Matthew ShepardContributor IIIJanuary 22, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JANUARY 22: Community members pay their respects at the statue of Joe Paterno, the former Penn State football coach, after hearing of Paterno's death, outside of Beaver Stadium on January 22, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. Paterno, who was 85 years old, died due to complications from lung cancer. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died this morning. The former Penn State coach revealed that he was battling lung cancer shortly after the controversial sexual allegations of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky were made public. Paterno announced that he had cancer nine days after being fired from Penn State. He was 85 years old.

Recently Paterno was admitted to a hospital and things were not looking good. Many fans gathered at his statue at Penn State to show support. Paterno's son thanked many fans for support. Sadly he passed away this morning.

Currently Paterno holds the record of most wins in college football. Despite his recent bad press, which led to his firing, Paterno will be remembered as a hero in the minds of many Penn State fans.

Paterno has always been a fighter and was thankful for his fans and supporters through the years. Even when the scandal at Penn State was happening he was still given support by his players and even some students.

He has been in the hospital since January 13th. He remained in the hospital due to minor complications from his cancer treatments. Although he was fighting cancer his family seemed to be in good spirits.

Paterno has a connection to the Detroit Lions.  The most famous was former President and CEO Matt Millen. He went on to play 12 years in the NFL. He even won a Super Bowl ring for each team he played for.

Despite Millen's pro record his management skills were lacking. Fans will remember Millen as the worst President and CEO for the Lions, and for good reasons. Under his watch the Lions posted the worst record in NFL history.

Millen's career in the NFL looked to be over after the mismanagement of the Lions, however, he was able to get a job at CBS and ESPN College Football as a color commentator.

Despite Millen's management record he was a decent player, and for that he has Paterno to thank.

Another Detroit connection is former offensive lineman Keith Dorney. He was drafted by the Lions in 1979. He played nine years with the Lions. In just five years he was made Detroit's offensive captain. He served as captain until 1987. He represented the Lions at the Pro Bowl twice.

Dorney played for Penn State from 1975-79 and with Detroit from 1979-88. Since retiring he wrote a book, Black and Honolulu Blue, and is writing another. In 2005 he was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Some other notable former Lions who played for Paterno were Bryant Johnson, Jeff Hartings and Eddie Drummond.

Almost every player who played college football had to deal with Paterno. Whether it has been with him or against him, everyone respected him.

The football world has lost a legend. Whether you loved him or hate one thing is for sure—he knew football.

His career lasted over six decades. Paterno appeared in 37 bowl games and won 24 of them. His dedication to the game and attention to detail won many championships. His players loved him and the Penn State football program thrived under his watch.