WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A day after former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky spoke out about the allegations against him, the reactions continue. Among them a Wilmington man who was Sandusky’s teammate at Penn State in the 1960s.
“It is a great institution. There is an expression that kids use at football games and what have you is that we are Penn State and in truth we are and always will be,” said former Penn State football player Joe Yermal.
Yermal first put on pads at the state college of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1963. Yermal played defensive back and wing back as part of Rip Engle’s Wing T offense.
As a walk on practice player he often impersonated the opposition. Sometimes he lined up across from then defensive lineman Jerry Sandusky.
“Jerry wasn’t the biggest guy, obviously far bigger than me, but he wasn’t huge,” said Yermal. “He was very abrupt. I like to think he was very abrupt. When he tagged you, you knew it, even though it was in practice. On those sessions for whatever reason you were going to go, what they call this is going to be live, there was no fooling around. He was tough, he was very, very good.”
Nearly half a century later Yermal found out about the sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky watching ESPN. He says when he read the news on the screen he almost fell out of his chair.
He says that although Sandusky gave no indication as a college player that he was the kind of person capable of the allegations, he was different than the rest of the players on the team.
“He was a very, very good ballplayer. A nice guy, kind of a practical joker, had a good sense of humor but at the same time had sort of a serious side I felt,” said Yermal.
Joe Paterno was an assistant coach when Yermal was on the practice squad. He says Coach Paterno always cared about academics first and recalls his intensity on the field. Yermal can only guess how Paterno reacted to the news.
“He’d known this guy since the early 1960’s. Either coached him or coached with him, or been his boss. I suspect he was almost in a state of denial, he just could not believe that this had occurred. I truly believe that if he weren’t in as good of shape as he was in that he’d of had a stroke,” said Yermal.
Although Yermal says his initial concerns are for the alleged victims, he also feels for his former coach and university.