While coaches from coast to coast were breathlessly announcing that theirs was the greatest recruiting class in the history of the school Joe Paterno was sitting at home scribbling notes on a legal pad. His chief lieutenant Tom Bradley was catching up on sleep having spent most of the previous 24 hours in Haiti assisting in earthquake relief. Sports Information Director Jeff Nelson had just sent out a press release confirming those players who had signed binding letters with Penn State. While the rest of the world was jumping to conclusions in University Park, PA it was just another Wednesday.
This isn't to say that Penn State lost out in the recruiting battles. Far from it apparently. Those who claim to know (but don't really) say that Joe's latest recruiting class was somewhere between the eighth and 12th best class in the country and the best in the Big Ten by a wide margin. All of the holes are filled and if these guys are anywhere close to reality Joe finds himself four deep in quality QBs and has added a pair of All-American linebackers. We'll see.
Funny, but some of these same people were saying that age was a major problem in allowing then 78 year old Joe Paterno to stick around. Now 82 year old Paterno got largely everyone he wanted. Again.
While the rest of the world examining every class with a magnifying glass and patting itself on the back experience has taught Paterno that letter of intent day is only the first step in a long, hard process that sometimes works as planned and sometimes implodes for no apparent reason.
It should tell you everything you need to know about the process that Paterno made a grand total of zero home visits this year and that Bradley was helping several former players load relief supplies on a 737 in Pittsburgh and then flying them to Port-Au-Prince. Both men had done their football work behind the scenes and had already moved onto the next, more important thing.
Paterno often tells the story that future Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham was the last scholarship offered in a year when Penn State handed out 23. Paterno thought that the slight kid from Johnstown would make a good scout team player and would make use of a college degree. Joe also tells everyone that All-American Paul Posluszny was a two or three star recruit who was passed over by many schools because he wasn't big enough.
What the recruiting gurus don't know and can't see is what makes the difference. They can't measure the size of a kid's heart. They can't measure the depth of his dedication. Just about none of them know how coachable 99.99% of the kids they write about are. Show me a kid who is 6'3" 240 and runs a 4.35 40 and I'll show you a kid that can't get on the field by the end of his sophomore year because he can't step up his game.
There are teams and fan bases around the country who think that Wednesday is their ticket to a National Title. I know an old coach who would beg to disagree.