Strong family ties to Penn State and Paterno

Two generations of Williams boys played for Paterno and brother-in-law Jim Morgans sent many more to PSU

Tom Williams Sr. was looking through some memorabilia Monday and came across a ticket stub from a testimonial dinner held at the Northampton Community Center.

The testimonial dinner was for Penn State football players from the Lehigh Valley, including Williams, his brother Franklin "Froggy" Williams, Tom Donchez, Mike Hartenstine and Jeff Bleamer.

The back of the ticket stub was signed by Joe Paterno and the front of it revealed the date of the event — Jan. 22, 1975.

It was a special night for the Williams family, for the local products, and for all who bleed Penn State colors.

Thirty-seven years to the day later, Paterno was again in the thoughts and minds of so many around here.

"It's hard to believe that the banquet was held on the same exact date that he died," Williams Sr. said.

The Williams family joined the Penn State community and a large portion of the entire sports world in mourning the loss of Paterno.

Paterno preached family ties and perhaps no other local family was as immersed in the Penn State tradition and the Paterno way than the Williams family.

Tom Sr. and Froggy, both Central Catholic graduates, were linebackers for the Nittany Lions in the early 1970s.

Several decades later, Tom Sr.'s sons and CCHS standouts— Tom Jr. and Casey — played for Paterno.

And there was yet another connection between Paterno and the family.

Parkland football coach Jim Morgans is a brother-in-law to Tom Sr., and Froggy and an uncle to Tom Jr. and Casey.

Morgans had several of his Central Catholic stars in the 1990s go on to play at Penn State, impact players like Tony Stewart, Mike Cerimele and Matt Senneca in addition to the Williams boys.

It's no wonder that Paterno knew his way to Central Catholic and felt comfortable in the building at Fourth and Chew streets in Allentown.

"He was so down to earth and had a knack of feeling comfortable wherever he went," Morgans said. "Some guys would come in and they had a little edge, like they were a little uncomfortable, a little nervous. Not Joe. It was like he was always there, like he belonged there. He always treated our kids well. We met in the main office and he'd be there talking to the staff, eating a piece of cake.

"One time we knew he was coming, so our principal, Mr. [Jim] Hodrick had him talk to the student body. So he did an impromptu speech in Rockne Hall and was great. He was just an easy-going guy, very personable. He had a story for everything."

Morgans said that Joe had an uncanny ability to remember names, and he knew that Morgans' brother-in-laws played at Penn State.

"He was always asking about your family," Morgans said. "It was amazing how he'd remember everyone."

Morgans also related a story about taking his daughter K.C., now a Penn State senior, up to visit practice one spring.

"Joe always came over and had something to say while we were on the field," Morgans said. "He saw her and came over and shook K.C.'s hand. and told her to be careful on the field. He said something like, 'I don't want you to get run over or else I'll be in trouble with your dad' and just that one conversation made an impression on her. And she wanted to go to Penn State."