Nightly News   |  January 22, 2012

‘JoePa was like our father’

A steady stream of people visited the Joe Paterno statue at Penn State to pay their respects to the late coach. NBC’s Michelle Franzen reports.

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>>> we learned today that one of the most legendary sports figures of the last half century has died. penn state football coach joe paterno whose legacy was forever stained by the scandal that cost him his job. he passed away early this morning after a short battle with lung cancer . and nbc's michelle franzen has reaction on the penn state campus tonight. michelle, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, lester. here outside the stadium, a steady stream of people have been coming to pay tribute all day, laying flowers and candles at the base of joe paterno 's statue. this place and the man many say symbolizes the heart and soul of penn state . along with grief throughout the day, there was also a strong showing of pride for this legendary football coach.

>> joepa was our father, like everyone. he brought penn state together, really. so it was hard seeing him and terrible this has happened.

>> joe has done a tremendous amount for this university and i just hope that we can all remember him for the good that he did and not what happened this past november.

>> earlier today the paterno family released this statement following his death saying, quote, 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. back here at the stadium, people continue to come here tonight in quiet and somber reflection, a vigil is also planned back on campus in this community waiting for word from the family on funeral and memorial plans. lester?

>> reporter: