Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy is making the news this week, for two reasons. The first is that he’s returning to the field after a knee injury left him sidelined in week 1 of the season. The second is because of the comments he’s recently made about former Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
You may recall that in 2006, when Levy was playing college ball for the University of Wisconsin, he was involved in a sideline tackle that went wrong and resulted in a serious injury to coach Paterno. Levy tried to back off a tackle after his target was down, but in doing so accidentally collided headfirst with coach Paterno’s leg.
While some players might feel remorse for accidentally injuring an old man on the sidelines, Levy considers it his proudest moment in college football. Of course, he likely wouldn’t feel that way if it weren’t for the scandal that unfolded surrounding Paterno a few years later. Paterno was complicit in the cover-up of the systemic rape and sexual assault of underage boys by his assistant Jerry Sandusky, a problem that had existed since at least 1976. In a recent interview with Men’s Journal about his injury and return, he talked about that hit to Paterno and how retroactively proud he is of it.
He was most famous for a 2006 play against Penn State, a sideline tackle that accidentally drove him into coach Joe Paterno, breaking JoePa’s left leg. Ten years later, Levy now calls that incident “my proudest moment in college,” as history has since revealed Happy Valley’s sad secrets. “That dirtbag, man,” says Levy of Paterno, who was recently implicated as being aware of child sexual abuse committed by his assistant Jerry Sandusky as early as 1976. “We’ve gotta stop prioritizing sports over humanity,” says Levy. “Just because somebody can throw a football or coach football, they’re excluded from their wicked acts.”
It’s not hard to understand the sentiment from Levy. Given that Paterno passed away before courts were able to punish him for his actions, Levy likely sees his hit to Paterno as at least a small form of justice against a man who did horrible things to keep his team competitive. Levy’s point about the way we forgive athletes and coaches for awful things because we prioritize sports over humanity is sadly still true today in many cases.