Editor's note: Lee Rubin is a former Penn State football player who worked closely with his coach, Jerry Sandusky, throughout his college football career. He is a professional speaker and author of "WIN: Simple Insights to Help You Win the Game of Life."
Jerry Sandusky was sentenced this week to at least 30 years in prison. Unless he lives longer than expected, he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
To most of the world, Sandusky is a horrific monster. A sick pedophile. True. But he was also my coach. My teacher. Someone I trusted. When I saw him in the prison jumpsuit at the sentencing, as a father and as a human being, I was relieved. As a former Penn State football captain, I once again felt an enormous amount of grief and conflict. My memories of Sandusky are of him on the sideline in his coaching attire, smiling after a tough, hard-fought win. To see him in that prison garb, while just, is also disturbing.
While the general public seems to be realizing some sense of closure with Sandusky’s sentencing, I’m still struggling with unanswered questions and unresolved emotions.
I was hoping to get some answers when I heard that Sandusky would be speaking at his sentencing. He had an opportunity to bring some closure to those he hurt. He was given an opportunity to take responsibility for his actions. Instead, he blamed others, including the victims. Given the chance to “stand up,” he hid.
It’s time to move on.
As a former Penn State football player, I’ve been asked a number of questions about Sandusky. I was even asked if I would ever consider visiting Sandusky in prison.
There are many questions I’d love to ask him: How could you betray the trust of so many people? Why won’t you do what you taught us to do: Take responsibility for your actions and the impact those actions had on countless individuals?
I’m smart enough to know that I probably won’t get any real answers. Not honest answers, anyway.
Sandusky’s “performance” at the sentencing reinforced the fact that there are no answers to be found or explanations to be had.
Thankfully, I have come to realize that mistakes and failures by others do not constitute failure on my part. I’ve learned to lean on others who feel the same way. In this particular case, my family and my teammates have been a tremendous source of support and encouragement.
Instead of asking what impact someone else’s life has on me – and continue to live as a victim of someone else’s decision — I’ve decided to move forward by determining what impact my life will have on the lives of others.
I’ve determined that dwelling on those unanswered questions can keep me stuck and unable to move forward. I refuse to let that happen. I choose to take the positive lessons learned from Sandusky and use them to accomplish this mission.
It’s just time to move on.
Moving on is not always easy. It often feels like quitting – a dirty word in the vocabulary of a former student-athlete. Ironically, Sandusky was one of the coaches who taught me that quitting is not an option. Even when a game, an event, or a situation is over, learn from it and make sure you’re better prepared for the next contest.
Moving on is not the same thing as quitting. Quitting is easy — moving on is hard. It takes strength, wisdom and decisiveness.
I didn’t quit on Sandusky. None of his players or victims did. He quit on all of us.
Now it’s our time to make the hard decision not to quit. His victims already took the first bold step by speaking out and standing up. I can’t fathom a more difficult task. Together, it’s time for us all to be strong and brave and begin the healing process. To move on. And not quit.