Scooting around from station to station on Friday, Joe Paterno did his requisite yelling at practice from a golf cart.
He dislikes losing the element of surprise that came when he was on his feet more often, as he’d sneak in and out of different position drills, shouting instructions as he went along.
Paterno hopes he’ll be able to do simple things like that again soon.
The 81-year-old coach is looking much better these days after having much-needed hip replacement surgery last month, but he’s not quite ready to resume all of his typical routines.
For now, long-time staffer Tom Venturino still chauffeurs Paterno around Holuba Hall in the cart. But Paterno is starting to feel like his normal self again.
“(Everybody’s) worried about me going too fast,” Paterno laughed. “But I feel good, I really do. I don’t have any problems. I know when I start to do some things for a little longer period of time, I get a little tired. That’ll be a couple of days. But after that, I’ll be fine.”
Paterno walked into his Rose Bowl media day press conference on Friday without a cane, the first time he’d appeared in front of reporters since his operation on Nov. 23, one day after the Nittany Lions wrapped up the regular season with a win over Michigan State. He stood at a podium for the entire 30-minute session.
After injuring his hip early in the season, Paterno’s mobility rapidly decreased as the games went on. He spent the second half of a Week 4 win over Temple in the coaches booth before gritting out a night game against Illinois at home the following week.
That was the last time Paterno stood on the sideline for a game, remaining in the booth for the rest of the regular season. When he did move around, it was exclusively with a cane or a cart, as he chose to put off surgery until the team had a break before its bowl game.
“It wasn’t pleasant,” Paterno said of the experience. “I’m a lot better. … Really, I don’t have any pain. If this were before the operation, just standing up, I had a lot of pain. It was a pain in the rear end, to be honest with you. But right now, I don’t have any pain.”
Whether that means he’ll be back on the sideline for the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 is uncertain. Paterno said last Sunday after the BCS selection show that he would like to try and get well enough to take back his old spot on the field.
But it’s too early to tell just yet, and he sounded less optimistic about it on Friday.
“I gotta wait and see,” he said. “I’m gonna try to do some things in practice, not here, but when we get out to the coast, I’ll try to figure out just how much stamina I have on my feet. I’m gonna try to coach without the motor scooter, and Venturino telling me what I’m doing wrong, but other than that, I’m OK.”
Center A.Q. Shipley and defensive end Aaron Maybin continued to rack up postseason honors, as both were named All-Americans by the Football Writers Association of America on Saturday.
Both were also named first-team All-Americans by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, while Shipley became the first Penn State player to win the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center earlier this week.
Maybin, a redshirt sophomore, and defensive tackle Jared Odrick, a junior, said Friday they had filed paperwork with the NFL to receive draft evaluations.
Both said their intention is to return next season to play for Penn State. Some extremely favorable reports could cause them to weigh their options, however.
“After they get some evaluation from the NFL, if they think that there’s a possibility they may want to come out, I’m sure they will come out and talk to me then,” Paterno said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to talk to me now.”
One of New Jersey’s top prospects, Gerald Hodges, has given a verbal commitment to Penn State, according to Scout.com and Rivals.com. Hodges is rated a four-star linebacker by both recruiting services at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, though he figures to play safety at Penn State, as the Lions will lose their entire starting secondary to graduation.
Hodges had initially committed to home-state Rutgers.
The Lions are still waiting to hear from four-star Virginia quarterback Kevin Newsome, who has become an even higher priority for them now that Pat Devlin has left the program. Daryll Clark is currently the only scholarship quarterback Penn State has for 2009.