"Anyone who played for Penn State, and played for Joe, and didn't take pride in saying so, well, they're lying. Because we all felt that way." - Chuck Burkhart
DALLAS - The degree of his loyalty established, Dallas businessman Chuck Burkhart tries to talk objectively about a subject that profoundly troubles him - Penn State football.
Burkhart is deeply woven into the mythology of the Nittany Lions. He quarterbacked coach Joe Paterno's teams through two unbeaten seasons, in 1968 and 1969, and he has always been treated as royalty by the Penn State family.
So, to see that family under attack everywhere from Jay Leno's monologue to the cover of Sports Illustrated devastates him.
"I have mixed emotions," said Burkhart, who threw six touchdowns passes in 1968 for the 11-0 Lions and two in 1969 for another 11-0 team. "First off, if this did happen, and if any child was abused, my heart first goes out to them. Nobody should harm any of our children anywhere."
Like many Penn State graduates, Burkhart finds it impossible to ignore the horrific allegations that former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky molested children and the idea that Paterno may be involved in a cover-up. Unlike most Nittany Lions alumni, he knows the people involved very well.
Sandusky was a graduate assistant when Burkhart arrived on campus.
"Jerry was always very friendly, very outgoing, and his wife, Dottie, is one of the most wonderful people I've ever known," Burkhart said. "And to see an ex-Penn State coach get accused of something is one thing. But to see what he is being accused of, well, that's hard to accept."
Burkhart's relationship with Paterno was intense.
"George Welch was my position coach," Burkhart said. "And one day he was showing me how to run a play, but it was not how Joe wanted it done. When Joe saw what we were doing, he came running over, screaming at me to please to do it right.
"I looked over at George and asked, 'Why didn't you tell him you told me to do it this way?' George said, 'Because he loves you. All he's going to do to you is yell. Me? He'd have fired me!' "
Regarding Paterno's firing by telephone after the allegations against Sandusky were made known, Burkhart did not like it.
"You would think with all the good he did for so many people that there might have been a better way for him to go out," Burkhart said. "But I don't have the answer of what that might have been. But you would think he deserved better."
Burkhart settled in the Dallas area in 1982 and is the director of the C5 Youth Foundation, which works with at-risk young people. He seems to get as much satisfaction out of that as he did in leading the Nittany Lions on that final touchdown drive to beat Kansas, 15-14, in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1969.
"You meet these kids, you see the look in their eyes, and you realize all they want is an opportunity," said Burkhart. "And we have been able to help them set the right goals and get into college."
Burkhart said he stays active in the North Texas Penn State Alumni Association, the largest Lions alumni group outside of Pennsylvania, and plans to work hard with the group to make sure Penn State's bowl visit to Dallas leaves a positive impression. He's also willing, he said, to do whatever he is asked to help clear the proud name of Penn State.