More than a year ago, Bob Capretto, Tom Donchez, Dan Leri and Brad Scovill among others wanted to do something for their former coach on his birthday, in late December. Joe Paterno was too sick, though. The family said he wouldn't be able to meet. After a casual brainstorming session, they thought of a way to communicate their feelings for him: a film. With local producer Eric Porterfield helping them out they decided to record a tribute to Paterno in their words and show it to him.
Of course, Paterno died about a month later. He never got to see the film. After that, the lettermen decided they would show the movie to Sue Paterno and a few other family friends. They did, but other Penn State fans wanted to see, too. In the last year, they've shown "The Joe We Know" to audience around the state and will show it here in Pittsburgh on Saturday at noon, 3:30 and 7 p.m.
"The film is very personal – it’s grown men who are talking directly to Joe in ways we all can relate to," says Donchez. "We’ve all had the same experience with Joe. We were young once and some of us not as mature as we should have been. The largest part he did for all of us is help us get on the right path."
The film features about 75 former players and runs for about an hour. They basically explain what Paterno meant to them. As Capretto says, Porterfield shot the movie in "Paterno" style, not even including names of players when they are speaking.
To film it, the players sent out a message to all the lettermen who lived in Pittsburgh, State College, Philadelphia, Baltimore/DC and New York City. The first people who responded were met in their respective cities by the film crew, and the project went from there.
After they completed it and decided they would show it to the public, they considered polling alumni groups to see who had the most interest. Capretto says the first group they heard from was in Austin, Texas. Not wanting to cross the entire country, the film has mainly played in the Northeast, premiering first in State College a year ago. He said Saturday could be the last showing of the film.
The 7 p.m. showing will include appearances from multiple former players, including Capretto, Franco Harris and Donchez. Donchez and the others are proud of what they put together.
"At the time we were making the film we were speaking directly to him," Donchez says. "He was ill and we knew time was short. And when time is short and you love somebody you want to tell them the truth. The film was done in that context and as a result what you hear from the guys in the film is pretty personal and direct."
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