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Penn State sex scandal is "like being sucker-punched," says former player Brandon Noble

2 Nov 1996: Defensive lineman Brandon Noble #93 of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks to the sideline for instruction from his coach during a play in the Nittany Lions 34-9 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania Getty Images

Defensive lineman Brandon Noble #93 of the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania.
Getty Images

(CBS) Former Penn State defensive lineman Brandon Noble was in Bermuda when he got a text from a former teammate about the unfolding sex abuse scandal involving his old coach, Jerry Sandusky.

"It was like being sucker-punched," says Noble. "The whole football program at Penn State was based on accountability, responsibility, doing the right thing. That's what Jerry preached - and that's what makes this so devastating."

Pictures: Child-sex scandal rocks Penn StatePictures: Joe Paterno

Noble, who spent nine years in the NFL after leaving Penn State in 1998, has also been a football coach.

For the past few days, Noble says he's been "wracking his brain" for any signs he might have missed that could have alerted him to Sandusky's allegedly predatory behavior, and coming up empty."There was nothing," he says. "He was a good football coach. He cared about his players, and he cared about his charity."That charity, the Second Mile Foundation, is the non-profit youth program where Sandusky allegedly found his victims. According to an explosive grand jury report, Sandusky is accused of molesting eight boys over a period of 15 years, engaging in behavior ranging from inappropriate touching to sodomy. Some of the alleged incidents occurred on the Penn State campus, in gyms and locker rooms to which Sandusky had access.

Brandon Noble #75 of the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium on December 21, 2002 in Irving, Texas.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images


According to the grand jury report, a then-graduate assistant witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in a shower in one of the Penn State athletic buildings on March 1, 2002. The graduate assistant, who is not named in the grand jury report but has subsequently been identified as Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary,  told the grand jury that he reported what he saw to head coach Joe Paterno, and that Paterno later reported the allegations to Athletic Director Tim Curly. The grand jury noted that they found McQueary's testimony "very credible."

A little over a week later, Curly called McQueary to a meeting with Gary Schultz, the university's senior vice president for finance and business.

What happened at the meeting is unclear. Curly denied to the grand jury that McQueary had told him of sodomy or "anything of a sexual nature" occurring: "He termed the conduct as merely 'horsing around,'" reported the grand jury.

Schultz was also apparently "unsure" what McQueary had reported, but testified that the allegations were "not that serious."

According to the report, Curly and Schultz - both of whom have been charged with perjury and failing to report a crime - told the graduate assistant they would "look into it."

But according to the report, neither even discussed alerting the police - even the University Police, which Schultz oversaw. Schultz did testify, however, that he reported the information from McQueary to University President Graham Spanier.

Noble - who read the report and calls it "disturbing" - says that this alleged cover-up is nearly as upsetting as Sandusky's alleged behavior.

"We want to know why this wasn't handled differently," he says, speaking for himself and the other former Penn State football players he's been communicating with non-stop since the story broke.

"There's a huge question mark, and I think Schultz and Curly need to tell us what really happened."

Noble thinks Paterno did the right thing Tuesday when he told reporters, "I wish I had done more," but says "I want to hear that from the people up the food chain."

Paterno announced Wednesday that he will step down from his position at the end of the season.

"Being a father, if someone saw something like this happening to my child, I would hope someone would call the police or step in," says Noble.

Still, he admits that the culture of football teams - at Penn State and elsewhere - is often insular.

"Every football team I've been a part of protects its own," says Noble. "Football is a dysfunctional family. You all come from very different backgrounds and not everyone gets along, but you want to keep those problems inside."

Asked how he would respond if one of his players or team members came to him with allegations similar to those levied against Sandusky, Noble is brutally honest:

"I would love to believe that I would do the right thing," he says. "But it's easy for me, sitting here in my office, to say that, absolutely I would contact the authorities and confront the person. But you just don't know how you're going react."

Either way, Noble says that the former players he's been communicating with are "very disappointed in the way the Penn State administration handled this."

"We're circling the wagons, we're going to start to heal - but we're going to have to do it ourselves."

Step one: Noble plans to attend Saturday's football game at Penn State.

Complete coverage of the Penn State sex abuse scandal on Crimesider

  • Julia Dahl

    Julia Dahl writes about crime and justice for CBSNews.com

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