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Joe Paterno, Through the Eyes of Adam Taliaferro

Jan 26, 2012, 2:18 PM EDT

"Maybe you will never be convinced Joe Paterno was a good man who made one catastrophic mistake, but do you have time for just one story?" So begins ESPN.com's Rick Reilly as he helps retell Adam Taliaferro's tale.

“Maybe you will never be convinced Joe Paterno was a good man who made one catastrophic mistake, but do you have time for just one story?” So begins ESPN.com’s Rick Reilly as he helps retell Adam Taliaferro’s tale.

A Penn State freshman in 2000, Taliaferro suffered a crushed spine that left him paralyzed after tackling an Ohio State player in the fifth game of the season. Given a three-percent chance to walk again, Taliaferro made a remarkable recovery, and he was able to lead the Nittany Lions out of the tunnel one year later.

Taliaferro explains to Reilly that Joe Paterno was there every step of the way, flying into Philadelphia every other week with his teammates to keep his spirits high. It meant the world to a kid who has since gone on to finish law school, and begin a foundation that raises money for spinal cord injuries.

“The last three months, I’ve just wanted to go up on a rooftop and shout, ‘I wish you knew him like I do!’” Taliaferro says. “I know, in my heart, if he’d understood how serious this situation was, he’d have done more.”

Taliaferro’s is just one of hundreds of stories that Penn State alumni and well-wishers have reminisced over since Paterno’s death, and really, since the scandal broke. The last few months have been hard for people who grew up admiring Joe — not at all comparable to the conflicts Jerry Sandusky’s victims have been forced to live with, but people who believe in the kind of human being JoePa was tend to feel, at the very least, he thought he had done the right thing.

Reilly doesn’t come off as though he is trying to convince anybody about a man’s character one way or the other. He simply asks, “If we’re so able to vividly remember the worst a man did, can’t we also remember the best?”

>> Joe Paterno’s true legacy [ESPN]

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