How Did Joe Paterno Die? Coach 'Died of Broken Heart' Millen Says

on January 22 2012 12:02 PM

Pundits like Matt Millen say legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died on Sunday of a broken heart.

Millen, the former NFL star who played for Paterno in the late 1970s, said on ESPN he just can't help but think (Paterno) died of a broken heart and that bothers me.

It's probably too hard to put into words, but just knowing what Joe was and how he conducted his life and how he operated daily; it was a daily, everyday thing for him ... the way it ended and for him to fall into this whole mess that's up there right now ... and hearing him say 'Looking back, I could have done more' ... I know this whole thing was just killing him. Those are the wrong words to say, but I don't know how else to say it.

Paterno was fired during the 2011 season as Penn State's coach after decades due to the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. Days after he was fired at Penn State in the midst of the season the Hall of Fame coach was diagnosed with lung cancer.

So while Millen and others like former coach-turned-analyst Lou Holtz say leaving the game left Paterno without a will to live, the official record will show that how Joe Paterno died is from complications of lung cancer. He had also suffered from a broken pelvis in 2011.

Paterno died Sunday at the age of 85 at Mount Nittany Medical Center. The hospital issues a statement saying that Paterno died at 9:25 a.m. Sunday of metastatic small cell carcinoma of the lung.

The hospital said Paterno was surrounded by family members when he passed. His family has requested privacy.

The Ivy League-educated coach -- he graduated from Brown University -- led Penn State to five undefeated seasons, coaching from 1966 to 2011. Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer in November.

Paterno's condition in days leading up to his death on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 22 has become serious due to lung cancer complications. He had been on a respirator but reports suggested he was removed from it late Saturday.

His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled, Joe Paterno's family said in a statement Sunday, according to MSNBC.com. He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been.

His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.

He has been many things in his life - a soldier, scholar, mentor, coach, friend and father. To my mother, he was and is her soul mate, and the last several weeks have shown the strength of their love. To his children and grandchildren he is a shining example of how to live a good, decent and honest life, a standard to which we aspire.

Paterno joined Penn State's coaching staff as an assistant in 1950 at the age of 23. He earned his 409th career coaching victory in 2011 before he was terminated by Penn State during the scandal involving former Nittany Lions assistant coach Sandusky. 

Paterno was named national coach of the year five times, and he won two national titles. He coached at Penn State for 61 years, including 46 as head coach. He was rarely seen in the public after he was terminated as Penn State's coach in late 2011.

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