When former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his report Thursday, people across the nation voiced their opinions on the report itself, Penn State and the late former head coach Joe Paterno.
Friday, current members of the Nittany Lion football team had their chance to share their thoughts.
“We didn't talk about it at all, but you know, you can't help but not watch any of it or hear any of it,” senior tackle Jordan Hill said of the Freeh’s report on his internal investigation of Penn State. “It’s out everywhere, anything socially that we do, it's going to be out. But we just don't talk about it because we got to get focused on this season.”
Hill was one of many players who were available for comment at the team’s annual Lift For Life event, which was held Friday afternoon at the Penn State lacrosse field.
Freeh’s report disclosed that four of the most powerful men at Penn State — including Paterno — failed to report former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky when they were made aware of an incident involving Sandusky acting inappropriately with a boy.
Senior center Matt Stankiewitch said the news in the Freeh report was not easy to hear.
“Well, it’s tough. It’s tough because I’m from Pennsylvania, it’s tough for anybody, it's tough for college football,” said Stankiewitch, a native of Orwigsburg.
Stankiewitch declined to comment on if the report changed his opinion of Paterno, but senior tight end Garry Gilliam and junior running back Silas Redd, along with Hill, all said their thoughts about their former coach didn't change after Thursday.
“I had a relationship with him through myself, [...] my opinion on him has not changed in any way,” Gilliam said.
“They don’t know him how we know him,” Redd said about Paterno’s critics. “An opinion is an opinion, everyone is going to have one.”
Redd added he thinks the statue of Paterno that stands outside of Beaver Stadium should remain standing because he feels Paterno “did a lot more good than bad” for Penn State.
Hill is hoping the statue is not taken down.
“It would be sad if it went down,” Hill said. “I definitely want to take a picture with it when I'm graduating, [when I have] my cap and gown on.”
Now that the Freeh report has dropped, attention has turned to the NCAA, which is conducting its own inquiry into Penn State and its handling of incidents related to Sandusky. Though the investigation will be looking at the actions and inactions of former coaches and administrators, it’s still something current players have to deal with.
“You hear the death penalty, and you think, like it really can’t happen, but you just don't know what's going to happen,” Hill said. “But at the same time, we can’t think about what if this happens, because nothing has happened yet to us. When that time comes, if it comes, then we’ll worry about it, but right now our eyes are focused on this camp coming up.”
Bill O’Brien, who was hired to be Penn State’s new head coach in January, was not at the event Friday, but did issue a statement Thursday regarding the Freeh report.
“We can and we must do better,” O’Brien said in the statement. “Nonetheless, I too remain proud of the accomplishments and character of Penn State’s many generations of student-athletes, and I look forward to doing my part to ensure we emerge stronger than before.”