PENN STATE FOOTBALL DATES TO 1887, AND AS THESE treasures from the Penn State All-Sports Museum in Beaver Stadium prove, substance has long reigned over style. The Lions began wearing black shoes as far back as 1939, when tackle Len Frketich roamed the gridiron. It only seems as though Joe Paterno has been wearing his Nike version that long, as well as his signature glasses. But the Lions' uniform has certainly been upgraded. The leather helmet and blue sweater have both gone high-tech, even if the design has remained refreshingly simple. The prehistoric-looking nose mask was worn by All-America lineman Joe Bedenk, who played from 1921 through '23.
WINNING WAS A PENN STATE TRADITION EVEN BEFORE the Paterno era. George Hoskins (1892-95) directed the Lions to a 6-0-1 record in 1894, including a 72-0 trouncing of Lafayette on Oct. 20. Under Bill Hollenback, who arrived in 1909, Penn State shut out Pitt 38-0 to cap a perfect year in '12. Hugo Bezdek led PSU to an 8-0-2 record in '21, with a win over Washington in the season's final game. Coach Rip Engle struggled to a 6-2-1 record in '56, so the 7-6 win over Ohio State in front of the biggest crowd to date (82,584) was a sure highlight. Engle also led the Lions to the school's first Bowl win, in '59. And Paterno has had a few big wins of his own, such as the one over the Buckeyes that broke Bryant's record.
WITH 372 VICTORIES COME A LOT OF BLING AND EVEN a shiny (Orange) bowl or two. In 42 seasons Paterno has earned baubles to commemorate national championships (two), undefeated seasons (five), bowl victories (an NCAA-record 23) and for breaking Bear Bryant's record for wins (323) in 2001. His players have also been well-decorated, earning every major trophy including the Maxwell for college player of the year, won by Mike Reid (1969), John Cappelletti ('73), Chuck Fusina ('78), Kerry Collins ('94) and Larry Johnson (2002); the Butkus Award for top linebacker, won by LaVar Arrington ('99) and Paul Posluszny ('05); and the Davey O'Brien Award, given to quarterbacks Todd Blackledge ('82) and Collins ('94).