The sexual molestation trial of embattled former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky began on Monday and brought with it testimony that hit especially close to home for LaVar Arrington.
The first witness called by the prosecution, identified as only Victim No. 4, gave heart-wrenching testimony that Sandusky showered him with gifts including a Sports Illustrated magazine autographed by Arrington before the alleged inappropriate acts occurred.
In addition, Sandusky took the No. 11 uniform worn by Arrington out of his locker and let the boy wear it. Prosecutors also entered into evidence a photo of the boy with Arrington during his time in State College.
“20-20 hindsight, that’s super creepy,” Arrington told co-host Chad Dukes during his show Monday afternoon on 106.7 The Fan. “I’m freaked out about it.”
The former Washington Redskins linebacker said he knew the child well after hearing about the testimony in the opening day of the trial. He suspected the alleged victim was among those involved in the case, but was certain until the trial began.
“It’s an eerie feeling because I can see the kid’s face clear as day,” said Arrington.
Arrington excelled at Penn State before forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft in 2000 where the Redskins selected him with the second overall pick.
During his time with the Nittany Lions, Arrington recalled “Victim No. 4″ frequently being around the football program, in its locker room and on the field. It was that constant presence that enabled the linebacker to develop a mentoring relationship with the boy who was among the youngsters involved with Sandusky’s Second Mile program.
He specifically recalled seeing Sandusky and the child playing a soccer-style game they called ‘towel ball’ in the locker room.
Despite the games frequently being played, Arrington distinctly remembered the child’s demeanor being downtrodden or heavy with burden.
“I always ask the kid, ‘Dude, why are you so upset? Why do you always look so mad?’” Arrington recalled.
He said he did his best to try to make the kid feel better by making him laugh or boxing with him.
Like many involved with Penn State football at the time, Arrington was unaware of the alleged true nature of Sandusky’s relationship with the children. It’s that not knowing that created a victim in the player.
“I’d be going through my stretches and the kid would be with me,” said Arrington. “Hell, if I would have known what the hell was going on, I would have kept him with me.”
But Arrington said he didn’t know. And because he didn’t know neither he, nor anybody else, could have ended the heinous actions. Only Sandusky could have put a stop to the alleged abuse.
Still, that’s of little comfort to Arrington and others who were there, who would have put a stop to the abuse..
Hindsight is indeed 20-20, but the guilt and pain carried by Penn Staters who were there will be felt clearly and sharply for many years to come.
“The point is there are clearly victims here and those victims aren’t limited to those young men that are testifying in that court room,” Arrington stated. “There are a lot of victims that are involved in this.
“To hear that my name came up and someway, somehow I’m a part of this — I’m a victim. I knew nothing about it. But my uniform is being used to seduce kids . . . that’s f’d up.”
Outside of the children, he says there was no victim great than Joe Paterno whom the Penn State Board of Trustees hung out to dry. A fall man was needed and the legendary coach was called upon to shoulder the burden of a collapsing program alone.
Ultimately, LaVar believes it cost the winningest football coach in NCAA history his life.
“The first person to shoulder all of this weight was Joe Paterno,” he emphatically stated. “The more the facts come out . . . It’s just not right how things were handled with Coach Paterno. It’s not morally or ethically correct the way [The Board of Trustees] did these things. And the way they have manipulated the media mob, they have turned people into thinking that this is something that this is OK, to put your attention and negativity to one person . . . Now he’s gone.”
As the trial against Sandusky progresses, Arrington feels Paterno will be vindicated. Although at that time it will be too little too late for the man whom he feels was like a father to him.
In Arrington’s eyes Paterno, who died of complications to lung cancer just months after his abrupt removal as head coach at the university, was a martyr.
“He’ll never have the opportunity to hear an apology. He’ll never have the opportunity to be redeemed as a living human being,” said Arrington. “It’s just sad that they handled this entire situation as poorly as they did. They should have did what they needed to do with Jerry Sandusky the moment they found out about it. That’s what should have taken place. They failed to do it. They wanted it to go away. It didn’t go away. So, who do we blame it on? Let’s blame it on the guy that we can put it on, that everybody in the world knows who he is and it will be that easy for us to sit there and get out of the way of all this pressure and let him shoulder the pressure . . . so much so that it killed that man, took that man to his demise.”
Paterno was 85 years old at the time of his death.
Arrington said he will keep a close eye on the trial, praying for a just result.
“I’m hoping at the end of the day that justice is served and it’s served in the right way,” he said.