STATE COLLEGE - You may not even notice Shawn Lonberger standing near the statue of Joe Paterno. Most people didn't.
He wasn't there spouting his beliefs of undeserved criticism being hurtled at Penn State's former football coach. He just kind of blends into the background of people watching.
The longtime resident of the State College and Bellefonte area is keeping a close eye on everybody who stops near the statue to snap a photo, though. In fact, he's standing guard at the statue making sure nobody harms it. He's not an employee of Penn State University. He's not an employee of the Paterno family. He's not a student at the Commonwealth's largest public institution of higher education.
Lonberger is merely an out of work truck driver who felt somebody needed to make sure nobody tried to harm the statue of the now deceased football coach. He's not there to make a statement of any kind. He's merely there to watch the goings on around the State College landmark.
"This is that important to me," said Lonberger, who arrived at the statue sometime around 7 or 8 a.m. Thursday morning. "I'm just sitting here enjoying the scenery. Hanging out and getting some sun."
Lonberger doesn't look any different than many of the visitors to the statue, and there have been many of them. A steady stream of people were always surrounding the statue all day, according to a security guard sitting some 30 feet from the statue in a cart. The only difference between Lonberger and the rest of the visitors is he isn't armed with a camera.
Instead, he sits off to the side on a large rock in his gray tanktop, watching the people from behind his mirrored sunglasses and occasionally puffing on a cigarette. As much as he blends in to the crowd, his lack of a camera makes him stand out. He didn't bother anyone but would often have people walk up to him and begin talking with him.
"People have been here all frickin' day," Lonberger said. "I thought I was the only one who'd have the idea to come up here. I just let them go about their business. I'm like a bump on a stump. Usually someone will come over and I tell them what I'm standing here for. They usually appreciate that."
Lonberger was driven to come and stand by the statue after a plane flew over the Penn State campus on Tuesday pulling a banner which read, "Take the statue down or we will". Lonberger said if anyone was going to rip the statue down they were going to have to "do it over my dead body."
He said the only acceptable way for the statue to come down was if the Paterno family decided it should come down or if the university decided to take it down.
"If they decided to take it down, it's beyond my control," Lonberger said. "But it's not going to be somebody flying around in an airplane flying around with a sign saying they're going to take it down."
He called the person who hired the plane a coward because nobody has claimed responsibility for flying it or hiring it. Lonberger isn't of belief that the statue should come down at all. He believes Paterno is being wrongfully blamed for the actions of Jerry Sandusky and the fallout that followed Sandusky's arrest last year and eventual conviction this summer.
He said the Paterno did his job by telling his superiors what he knew. He also said the Freeh Report, which outline the cover-up of the incidents that took place on Penn State's campus, are merely one person's opinion on what actually took place.
"I just think people have their own opinion of what the guy stood for," Lonberger said. "If you knew Joe Paterno, you know he wouldn't stand for anything like that. He was a man of a man. He was an educator."
Lonberger said he's been a Penn State football fan his entire life. He's standing guard at the statue because the words "Educator, Coach, Humanitarian" which are on the wall behind the Paterno statue, describe the man Paterno truly was.
He's only medical leave from his job as a truck driver after having a diabetic episode, so Lonberger said he's got nothing but time to spend by the statue making sure nobody bothers it.
"I have to stand up for what I believe in," he said. "If I don't, I'll fall for anything."