The former Penn State football players interviewed at Monday's York County Special Olympics Celebrity Golf Tournament in York spoke highly of current head coach Bill O'Brien, who will begin his second season this fall.

At the same time, the players are outraged at the firing of the former head coach, Joe Paterno, the vacating of 111 of his victories and the removal of his statue from outside Beaver Stadium.

"I love what Coach O'Brien is doing," Lydell Mitchell said. "I'm glad they reached outside the system for a new coach. He's doing a wonderful job, and it's only going to get better."

O'Brien, the former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, directed the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record in his first season last fall.

Former Penn State standouts Lydell Mitchell, right, and Lenny Moore, warm up before the York County Special Olympics Celebrity Golf Tournament. Mitchell is
Former Penn State standouts Lydell Mitchell, right, and Lenny Moore, warm up before the York County Special Olympics Celebrity Golf Tournament. Mitchell is a big supporter of current PSU head coach Bill O Brien and a big defender of former PSU head coach Joe Paterno. (Bill Kalina photo)

"I have all the admiration for what he's gone through and what he's doing," Glenn Ressler said. "He's a terrific coach and is able to recruit great kids."

Red Lion native Scott Fitzkee, a former Nittany Lion receiver, said that O'Brien is "fabulous."

"It was fun watching games last year," Fitzkee said. "The Wisconsin game was one of the best football games I've seen in my 55, soon to be 56 years. Throwing the ball, the tight ends catching a ton of balls. That's fun to watch. Nothing against Coach Paterno and his years. Joe Paterno is second to no one."

Paterno, a legendary coach who directed the team for 46 seasons and led it to two national championships, was fired in 2011 in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Sandusky, a retired defensive coordinator at PSU, was found guilty in 2012 of dozens of criminal counts covering child sex abuse on and off campus. He is currently in prison.

After the Freeh Report was issued, the NCAA imposed severe sanctions on Penn State in the summer of 2012, which included a four-year ban on competing in bowl games and steep scholarship cuts.

Red Lion native Scott Fitzkee expressed similar sentiments.
Red Lion native Scott Fitzkee expressed similar sentiments. (Bill Kalina photo)

Paterno's family denied there was a cover-up and, together with some former players, filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the sanctions. About 325 ex-players, including Fitzkee and Rob Smith, who played at Northern York High School and Penn State, signed a statement supporting the family's lawsuit.

"It's disturbing as hell these blows that have to be thrown at Penn State," former Penn State star and NFL Hall of Famer Lenny Moore said at Monday's tournament at Out Door Country Club. "Taking the statue (of Paterno) down, taking his records away, that makes us all feel bad. I'm so pleased that I got a chance to see Joe before he passed."

Mitchell accepts the fact that there had to be some sanctions, but feels that the Freeh report jumped to conclusions which the board (of trustees) accepted too soon.

"Penn State gave up way too much at the beginning and gave up Joe as the sacrificial lamb," he said.

Fitzkee said he doesn't agree with a lot of things that happened to the university.

"Taking Joe's wins away and hurting the kids who are there right now, I don't think that was right," he said. "I'm sure, though, you could talk to 1,000 people who don't agree and 1,000 people who think, 'yeah, they (Penn State) deserve what they got."

Milestone event: The York County Special Olympics Golf Tournament reached a milestone this year: 25 years.

Eddie Khayat and George Tarasovic, who each played in the NFL, started the event, which partners former pro athletes with local golfers, with all the proceeds going to the Special Olympics.

"I don't know how many people look 25 years down the road, and it doesn't seem like 25 years, but here we are," Khayat said. "All the hard work that the committee does, and the sponsorships we are still able to get, has kept this going. It's a wonderful thing to be able to raise money for Special Olympics."

Khayat said there are a number of people on the committee who have been with the tournament since the beginning, and a number of former players who have been to every tournament.

"We have some new guys, but we also have our core group which is great," he said. "There are some tournaments that aren't going anymore, for various reasons, and there's so much competition, too. Dick Vermeil's tournament is (Tuesday), there's another one (tournament) in York, and there's one in Pittsburgh."

Khayat said that for the past five years, a Special Olympian, has been a speaker at the dinner following the tournament. Special Olympian Tim Moran sang the National Anthem on Monday for the 24th time in the tournament's history.

Proud papa: Former Baltimore Orioles' pitcher Dave Johnson was understandably proud when his son, Steve, joined the O's pitching staff last season.

A father-son duo pitching for the same Major League team is pretty rare.

Dave Johnson pitched three seasons for the O's, including the 1989 Why Not season when the O's almost pulled off a worst-to-first turnaround.

Steve, who pitched very well in his first season with the O's (4-0 record, 2.11 earned-run average) is currently on the disabled list. The 25-year-old right-hander has a slight tear of a left oblique (stomach) muscle.

"He's hurting," Dave Johnson said on Monday at Out Door. "They called him up from Norfolk (Class AAA), and he made his first start this year in Minnesota. He didn't pitch well there, but he pitched well in relief. Hopefully, when he does get back, he can add something to the bullpen."

Johnson, an analyst on Orioles games, said for the first time since the 1970s, the O's can match up position for position with any opponent.

"They have a Gold Glover in center (Adam Jones), a Gold Glover in right (Nick Markakis in 2011), a Gold Glover at short (J.J. Hardy) and a Gold Glover behind the plate (Matt Wieters). They have the home-grown talent (Markakis, Wieters and Manny Machado) and the guys they got in trades (Jones, Hardy, Chris Davis). This team is solid. At the beginning of the season, I thought the Rays and Orioles would battle for first in the division."

Ace wins car: Penn State assistant basketball coach Keith Urgo recorded a tournament first by scoring a hole in one on a "car" hole.

Urgo, whose official title is associate head coach, aced the par-3, 167-yard 17th hole to win a 2013 Buick Regal. The car was donated by Jack Giambalvo Motor Co.

Match of cards determines winners: The winning groups in Monday's York County Special Olympics Celebrity Golf Classic at Out Door Country Club were determined in a match of cards.

Scoring a 61 and winning was the team from Griffith, Strickler, Lerman, Solymos and Calkins. Team members included Charles Calkins, Joe Martin, Mike Scheib, Robert Lerman, Tom Strickler and celebrity Keith Urgo.

Coming in second, also at 61, was the team from Grove Insurance Agency which included Jeff Grove, Randy Laird, Dick Lee, Bill Dietz, Bandele McQueen and celebrity Tony Covington.

-- Reach Dick VanOlinda at dvanolinda@yorkdispatch.com.