Lou Prato Looks Back on an Unforgettable Season

The format for Lou Prato’s fifth and latest book was something of a happy accident. It was his publisher, Prato says, who suggested the idea for a diary of the Nittany Lions’ 2012 season. The catch was that the season was already over.


“How could I do it as a diary of the season,” Prato says now, “when I didn’t keep a diary?”

Prato ’59 tackled the challenge anyway. In the space of about four months, Prato turned his encyclopedic knowledge of Nittany Lion football—he did write the Penn State Football Encyclopedia, after all—and countless hours of intensive research into a book that does justice to the unforgettable events of last season. The result is We Are Penn State: The Remarkable Journey of the 2012 Nittany Lions, with a forward by Bill O’Brien. It’s on sale now in hardcover and as an eBook.

We had a chance last week to catch up with Lou about the project. Among other things, he says, he “didn’t want to do a game-by-game breakdown; I wanted to capture the essence of the games.” As always, it was a pleasure to talk Penn State football with a guy who knows it better than just about anyone. Here are some of the highlights…

On what he learned while writing the book: “I didn’t realize how good of a coach Bill O’Brien is, and what a good staff he has. Coaches have to be PR guys, psychologists, and everything else, and he gets that. When things aren’t going well, there are some coaches who immediately blame the players. He always makes a point to say, ‘These are just kids.’ He’s very smart, and he really gets these guys motivated.”

On reader reaction to the book: “One thing a few people have told me, they had to stop reading because it made them cry. I didn’t plan to write an emotional book, but apparently I did. Rushing through the season as it happens, it’s bang-bang-bang. Reliving it has given people a different perspective. And of course, the fans are in love with that team. I didn’t start out writing a book that was ‘this is what Penn State football is all about.’ But this team is what Penn State is all about.”

On what set the 2012 team apart: “Every team is different, but the off-field problems that occurred with this team were unique. Little did we know that they would be honored with the ‘2012’ inside the stadium—that’s really an honor, and I think they deserve it. History will show this was a unique team. They’ll always be remembered.”

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