STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The Penn State family was under fire, and the values of a major university known best for its football team and longtime coach Joe Paterno were called into question by the child-sex abuse scandal that rocked the school last week. So, dozens of past football lettermen gathered on the sidelines Saturday at Beaver Stadium in a remarkable show of support in the wake of Paterno's firing.
"I thought the day was a positive showing of what Penn State is all about," said former safety Shawn Mayer, who played from 1998-2002 and went on to a four-year NFL career. "Everything was calm. The fans were here for the players and the university.
"We addressed the issues and showed our support for child abuse. Penn State's not a scandal. We're not part of what happened. That was one person. That's not what we stand for."
That "one person" is former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of 40 counts of child sex abuse involving eight young boys over a 15-year period. Sandusky coached during Mayer's first two seasons and remained a prominent presence around the program even after his retirement.
An incident in 2002, when assistant coach Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky allegedly assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the showers of Penn State's football practice facility ultimately led to Paterno's firing. McQueary told the head coach, who passed the information to his superiors but never did anything more to make sure Sandusky faced prosecution.
Asked for his view of Paterno now, Mayer said, "It's a day at a time thing. We know him as coach. We don't know anything that goes on behind the scenes. I didn't know anything, and I was here until 2002. I never heard one rumor. I know my teammates didn't know anything.
"It's a hard thing to grasp. Each player takes it differently. We just have to get through it. I think Penn State, though, showed today we will come through it and get past this."