Pennsylvania Man Still Cherishes 1952 Joe Paterno Recruiting Letter

For years, Earl Shumaker kept the momentous letter in a living room drawer.

Somehow, he still has the recruiting letter Joe Paterno sent him nearly 65 years ago, although he did finally decide to store it in a safety deposit box in his bank.

He gets it out every now and then. It's an artifact from that 1954 team, the one that served as the root of Penn State's grand legacy to come.

Shumaker is 82 now and lives in Reading with his wife, and he still works the real estate business he helped assemble four decades ago. They've raised their children and are now watching their grandchildren grow up.

He pulled out the letter one afternoon last spring. It's folded in the middle with a few creases, but it's still well-preserved.

It's dated March 20, 1952. The stationary header reads, "THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE COLLEGE."

Joe Paterno had been a Penn State assistant for only two years, was barely older than his players, and wanted Shumaker to play on his offensive line. He had to convince him to bypass Georgia, Arizona State and others.

Paterno sent him this handwritten letter ...

We definitely feel you are the type of boy we want at Penn State. A good student as well as a good football player. All the people I have talked to about you told me the same thing: you are interested in going to college to get an education first and play football secondly. That's the way it should be and we are only interested in boys who feel that way ...

Shumaker was one of five kids raised by a steelworker and his wife in Beaver Falls, near Pittsburgh. He was the first in his family to go to college.

"I thought (Penn State) might be too big for me," Shumaker says now. "Joe thought I could play there. So, it was like, 'Well, if you think I can play there, I'll try.'"

Always remember you can only play football a few years and if all you get out of college is four years of football you are getting cheated. No matter where you decide to go to school make sure you get an education that will enable you to live a happy and well-rounded life.

Certainly, the letter possesses a timeless appeal to Penn State football fans. The intent and message of it are the same Paterno preached in the 1960s, when he took over as head coach, through his final season in 2011.

Shumaker was one of his first recruits and made almost an immediate impact. He started for three years as a 5-foot-9, 195-pound lineman on offense and defense because back then, players had to play both ways.

After Penn State, he served with the U.S. Marines before landing in the insurance business. He eventually switched to real estate, worked for a company in Reading and then started his own.

Life has been good, he says. His children are teachers and lawyers. He has a place on the Delaware shore. He still does agent work a few hours each day because it's part of who he is.

He knows that Penn State helped lead to all of this.

"They insisted that you come there to get a degree. You came there to play football, but you had to make a life after football."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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