Mike Munchak always appreciated Joe Paterno’s honesty.
In an interview with The City Paper last summer, the Tennessee Titans head coach recalled one of his earliest discussions with the legendary Penn State coach.
“He said when he recruited me I might never play a down for him,” Munchak said. “[After joining the team at Penn State], when I looked around and saw who was sitting in those seats, and it was the best of all the different high schools all over the country, I thought, ‘You know, I may never play again.’
“… There is nothing promised.”
Based on that notion, Munchak vigorously pursued a degree in business, which he earned, even as he developed into a offensive lineman who ultimately was drafted in the first round and became a Pro Football Hall of Fame member. He also became the first of Paterno’s players to become an NFL head coach when he was named Jeff Fisher’s successor nearly a year ago.
Not surprisingly, Munchak was one of many who issued statements Sunday after Paterno passed away from complications due to lung cancer treatment. The winningest coach in major college football history was 85 years old.
"Coach Paterno was one of the legends of coaching and his passing is very sad for all of his former players and the Penn State family. His accomplishments both on and off the field will never be matched. What he was most proud of though was not what we accomplished, but how we accomplished it — 'success with honor' was his phrase for it. He instilled a spirit in each of us that we were part of something bigger than ourselves and upholding the Penn State tradition. The things I learned at Penn State are still with me today and they have made me a better person and a better coach. My thoughts go out to his family in this extremely difficult time. Rest assured coach Paterno will never be forgotten because his traditions and legacy will be carried on by all of his former players and the fans of Penn State."