JEANNETTE, Pa. -- If there was a clear winner on national signing day, it was a cantankerous octogenarian with a tendency toward road rage.
The world peeked in on this humble small town outside Pittsburgh to find out which school the nation's No. 1 prospect was going to attend. It got a lesson just how damn good, energetic and relevant Joe Paterno still is.
|Terrelle Pryor is on his way to class after the news conference. (AP)|
"I had my mind set last night where I was going to go," Pryor said. "(But) Penn State, they've been hitting hard. I just don't think I gave them a fair chance."
A week ago Penn State wasn't on Pryor's list of finalists. The world was breathlessly waiting for the 18-year-old to choose between blood rivals Ohio State and Michigan. Since then, Paterno called a blitz -- visiting Pryor along with defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, schmoozing the Jeannette staff and, for now, getting his white-socked foot in the door on the biggest talent in the country.
All at age 81.
"Joe sort of commands situations," said Jeannette coach Ray Reitz, still wide-eyed from last week's visit. "When we sat down, it was like The Godfather."
Paterno had the opening he needed for what coaches told media was to be his first in-home visit in two years. Reitz's wife made cavatelli, meatballs and salad for the coaches last week.
A coaching legend in a small town. Italian pasta for an Italian coach. Perfect.
"He was talking about growing up with Vince Lombardi," Jeannette assistant Jim Ward said. "Talking to someone who knew Vince Lombardi was a big deal."
"You hear rumors, 'He ought to get out,'" Jeannette quarterbacks coach Roy Hall said of Paterno. "After meeting the guy, he can stay there another 10 years. He knows what he's talking about. He's very sharp, very intelligent."
Hall had his doubts when Paterno offered a scholarship to Hall's nephew Jordan, a Jeannette tailback. What happens, Hall asked, if Pryor doesn't come to Penn State?
"Coach," Bradley said, "right now this isn't about Terrelle."