Former players support Paterno on birthday

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
11:00
AM ET

Joe Paterno turns 85 today, and it's safe to say the former Penn State coach has had better birthdays than this one.

Paterno is out of the hospital after being treated for a broken pelvis he suffered during a fall at home. He's undergoing treatment for lung cancer diagnosed in mid November, days after he was fired from Penn State.

More than 340 of Paterno's former Penn State players are showing support for their coach through a letter released in time for JoePa's birthday. Former Nittany Lions star running back Lydell Mitchell organized the tribute, which includes more than 340 signatures.

The letter to Paterno can be seen here.

It begins:
As members of the Penn State Community, we are deeply saddened by the allegations against Jerry Sandusky, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Given the allegations against Sandusky, we understand the public's outrage because we share it.
At the same time, however, it’s important to remember that all of the facts surrounding this troubling matter are not known. Until all of the facts are known and due process has run its course, we ask that the public reserve judgment about Joe Paterno and the Penn State community.

The letter goes on to mention the positive impact Paterno had on his players and on Penn State. It also states that the school is "much more than one man or one sport." Notable players who signed the letter include LaVar Arrington, Franco Harris, Shane Conlan and Ki-Jana Carter. Current NFL players like Anthony Adams and Stefen Wisniewski are also among those who signed.

The letter concludes: "We ask for due process for Joe Paterno and the Penn State community. Based on the immense quality of Joe’s character and the absence of all the facts, we stand in support of Joe and Penn State. -- The Penn State Football Family."

Mitchell told the Associated Press that as of Tuesday night, Paterno wasn't aware of the letter.

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