Posted by Adam Jacobi
Scary news out of State College on Monday: Penn State head coach Joe Paterno has been hospitalized after getting run over by one of his players. Penn State announced that Paterno suffered injuries to his right arm and hip when unsuspecting wide receiver Devon Smith was running a route and ran into him. If there's any fortune involved, it's that Smith is scarcely bigger than Paterno, at 5'7" and 157 pounds. One shudders to think how much worse the collision would have been if Derek Moye (6'5", 202) had been the receiver involved instead.
Chris Fowler reported that Paterno's injuries are hairline fractures in both the shoulder and pelvis, and that neither will require surgery. That much is promising, but still: a broken bone is much worse news for Paterno than for, say, one of his players.
Now, it's not exactly news that Paterno is old. He's easily the oldest head coach in D-I football, and has been for a long time. People have been wondering if the next season would be his last for about the last decade or two. Old. Ollllld.
And yet, since Paterno's been maintaining his faculties to such a degree, continuing to coach football has been a possibility, so he's been coming back to the sidelines -- and coaching at a high level -- every year. Unfortunately, he's getting to the age where the body doesn't make much progress staying strong or healing quickly. There aren't many coaches other than, say, Pat Fitzgerald or Luke Fickell who can get trucked by an unsuspecting wide receiver and not get hurt. For an 84-year-old man, then, such a collision might be more than his body can fully recover from. And if that's the case, well, that'd be pretty lousy news.