Ken Denlinger thought he had a good idea on his hands when an editor suggested he get an inside look at college football.
Why not pick a recruiting class, the editor said, stay with it from start to finish, and see where it takes you?
For the Glory, Denlinger's new book, is the account of the author's time with Joe Paterno's 1988 crop of recruits. And along with the insights that Denlinger gleaned on the good, bad and ugly of the college game, he just happened to hook up with a class more deserving of a tell-all book than any other in Penn State history.
"I had no inkling that this class would be so diverse," Denlinger said. "For my purposes, it was wonderful."
Currently covering college football for The Washington Post, Denlinger himself is a Penn State alum (class of 1964) and a former staffer at The Daily Collegian. His ties to Penn State were only part of the reason he chose Paterno's program for the book.
"One of the reasons was that I've known Joe for a long time," he said. "But the second and really practical reason is that it's the closest school with a national impact."
Denlinger's approach to the project involved using one program as the focus for a look at the larger world of big-time college football. But it's the specifics on Penn State, and particularly Paterno, that are raising eyebrows.
While the coach is often captured in moments of anger or frustration, allowing for some none-too-flattering moments, Denlinger insists that the book doesn't paint Paterno as a bad guy.
"I think if you look at it objectively, you're gonna see Joe in a lot of different ways," Denlinger said. "I think it's pretty hard to nip at the guy for anything really significant. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him."
At his preseason press conference two weeks ago, Paterno seemed indifferent to any criticism the book might bring him or the program.
"I said, 'Ken, I want it honest. I don't want it to be one way or the other. I want it honest,' " Paterno said. " 'I want it to be a book that somebody could pick up and understand just a little bit, have a little better insight as to what these kids have to go through.' And from what I understand, Ken's written an honest book."
The class itself, and the highs and lows its players experienced, make the story all the more enticing. From injuries and legal clashes for some to eventual stardom for others, the group seemed to have a little bit of everything. It was also the first class since Paterno became head coach in 1966 that didn't go undefeated or play for a national title.
Paterno didn't blame Denlinger for his honesty.
"Ken sent me the manuscript and asked me if there was anything I objected to. I took a quick look through the thing -- didn't read it -- and said, 'Look. Five years ago, we made a deal. Do anything you want to do.' And at that time, obviously, I didn't think that this class would be quite as . . . interesting. I don't like all of it, but not because Ken wrote it. I don't like some of it because it happened. I wish it hadn't happened."