Former SU star Drummond: ''Paterno will always be an icon to me.''

Joe Paterno

Robert Drummond was a standout running back at Syracuse University in the late 1980's, but is quick to admit his hometown school wasn't his first college choice.

"Penn State was actually my first choice, Syracuse was second," he said.

Drummond remembers being a high school student at Jamesville-DeWitt when legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno came to his home for a visit.

"To have someone, at the time, of Joe Paterno's stature come and appreciate you for the things you can do on a high school football field and then come play at his university, it means a lot to you," Drummond said.

In the end, playing close to his family mattered more to Drummond -- who played four years at SU before being selected in the third round of the 1989 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.

But the impact Joe Paterno had on his life is evident.

Drummond speaks highly of the former Penn State coach, who passed away Sunday at the age of 85 from lung cancer.

Despite the child sex abuse scandal involving Paterno's former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, Drummond said Paterno should be remembered for the impact he had on players and the State College community.

"No matter what happened, Joe Paterno will always be an icon for me," he said.

But the sex abuse scandal will always be linked to Paterno's legacy, who won 409 games in 46 seasons on the Nittany Lions' sideline.

After being fired in November from the school he dedicated his life to, many say Paterno may have lost the will to live while battling lung cancer.

"He absolutley died with a broken heart," Drummond said.