UNIVERSITY PARK - When Jeff Bast got the call Monday night, asking him to be among those to eulogize former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno at his memorial service Thursday at Bryce Jordan Center, it didn't take him long to answer.
It didn't take him long to find the right words, either.
Now living in Charleston, S.C., the inaugural mayor of "Paternoville" - the makeshift tent city outside of the student entrance to Beaver Stadium - said the speech came to him during a restless Monday night that became Tuesday morning.
Jeff Bast, right, stands with the late former football coach Joe Paterno outside of Gate A at Beaver Stadium during the 2005 Penn State football season. Bast, the original mayor of ‘Paternoville,’ spoke at Thursday’s ‘Memorial for Joe.’
"Everything I said (Thursday) really hit me in about a half an hour," said Bast, who worked as a photographer for The Sentinel while a student at Penn State.
"I couldn't sleep Monday night. When I heard the news that I was going to be speaking, I thought 'I have to come up with a speech that will do this great man some more honor,'" he said. "I was still up at about 3:30 in the morning, so I just grabbed a pen and paper and everything came out in about half an hour."
But after the speech was written, Bast had to wait a couple of days to address not only the thousands in attendance, but a nationwide television audience as well, which made him question if he had the ability to deliver a fitting eulogy.
"It was definitely mixed emotions," Bast said of what he felt leading up to the service. "I was happy, sad, nervous. There were times when I thought 'I just don't have it in me.' I almost thought 'I can't do it.' But my good friends kept giving me inspiration that I was the person for it and there was a reason I was there to speak."
That reason is that Bast is among those who helped establish "Paternoville," which started in earnest in the leadup to the 2005 game against Ohio State, a game which Penn State won before the first "White Out" crowd - where those seated in the student section came dressed in white shirts.
In the weeks after the Ohio State game, "Paternoville" had become a new tradition. During one of those weeks, Paterno and his wife Sue delivered a stack of pizzas to the campers, which gave the "mayor" an opportunity to meet the legendary coach. The two posed for a photo, something Bast said he still treasures and made it easy for him to find the words to honor Paterno.
"Most Penn Staters don't have that relationship with him like the football players do," he said. "I was glad I could tell that side of the story."
One of many stories on a day to honor a legend.