Two former Nittany Lions have teamed up with a non-profit organization to commemorate Joe Paterno’s final speech to his players — and raise money for charity in the process.
Long snapper Andrew Pitz and do-it-all Gettysburg native Evan Lewis have led the recent project. They are working with Success with Honor, a non-profit organization that donates to charities throughout Pennsylvania.
They are selling $99 glass plaques featuring a photo of Paterno and the final paragraph from his final speech to his Nittany Lions before he was fired in November of 2011 over the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
These are the final 29 words of that speech: “We’re a team, alright? We’ll always, always … We will always be a team. Not just next year. It’s not over. We will always be … The Penn State football program.”
“I am extremely proud to say that I am a product of the Grand Experiment. I bought into Coach Paterno’s ideology from a very young age and never looked back,” Lewis said in a statement on the web site promoting the project.
“Being able to give back to the community in Joe’s honor is truly a rewarding experience.”
The idea to turn the speech into a fundraising project came after Lewis framed those words and a picture of Paterno for himself.
Lewis described the scene of that final speech in his words: “The passion (Paterno) exhibited … the tears of sadness, the smile of optimism, the fist pounds on the podium as he had done so many times before, and the expression of pride and character he had displayed that morning, as he had throughout his entire career, will stick with me forever.
“Not once did he falter. He stood tall, never defeated,” said Lewis who played defensive back, receiver, kicker and returned punts at Penn State.
All of the proceeds from the charity plaques will be split between Pennsylvania Special Olympics, Uplifting Athletes and Success with Honor.