Crossing the goal line with a blocked punt during a 31-22 win at Michigan State in 2005, Penn State sophomore Matt Hahn from Dix Hills made one of the biggest plays of the NCAA football season.
The diving catch, voted a "Pontiac Game-Changing Moment," put his team up 10-0 and helped the Nittany Lions (11-1) on to a Big Ten-clinching victory, a triple overtime Orange Bowl victory against Florida State and a No. 3 final ranking — on the field, they were nearly unstoppable.
But off the field, the NCAA knocked Penn State flat Monday.
Imposing a $60 million fine, a four-year football postseason ban, significant scholarship reductions and vacated wins, the NCAA reacted swiftly to the conviction last month of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky to sexual abuse of 10 boys over 15 years.
"No matter what we do here today there is nothing that can remove their pain and anguish," said NCAA President Mark Emert at a press conference in Indianapolis.
Penn State must remove all wins from 1998 to 2011, leaving players and fans to deal with the gravity of the situation.
Sympathetic to Sandusky's victims, yet proud of on-field accomplishments including six bowl wins and two conference championships which will now be erased — Hahn and other players are torn.
"I don't know if I'm supposed to send my bowl ring to a Florida State guy or my Big Ten ring to a Michigan State guy, or something like that," said Hahn, regarding the NCAA ruling. "I really don't know how to feel."
Hahn said teammates which contacted him in recent days through emails and calls can't believe what has happened
"The whole situation is kind of like a nightmare," said Hahn.
The bad dream came to fruition for PSU in the aftermath of horrifyingly real crimes by Sandusky, who awaits sentencing after being convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse.
In the weight room and through The Second Mile organization set up in 1977 to help underprivileged youth, Sandusky was "around" the Penn State football program, Hahn said, regarding his time at the school. Football players in need of community service for Penn State classes were often recommended to Sandusky's organization, according to Hahn.
"You couldn't really help but be affiliated with him," said Hahn, a fullback ans special teams player in Happy Valley from 2004-07.
The former star learned of the NCAA sanctions from California where he works as a businessman and lives with his wife, , and their daughter.
"I just figured that there would be some wins taken away, but I didn't know from what years," said Hahn, who said he wasn't surprised by the sanctions.
In its ruling, the NCAA ordered the reduction of 10 annual new scholarships and ordered $60 million in sanctions be used externally by Penn State for programs preventing child sexual abuse. The NCAA forbid its use to fund such programs at the university.
Hahn said the donated money will do good but innocent players and other aspects of the university, including non-revenue generating sports that count on football revenue to fund their programs, will suffer as well.
With the decision, former head coach Joe Paterno moves from 409 wins to 298, dropping him from first to 12th on the all-time NCAA coaching wins list.
The Paterno family said in a statement Monday the horrific acts committed by Sandusky shock the conscience of every decent human being, but sanctions announced by the NCAA defame the legacy and contributions of a great coach and educator without due process or input from our family or those who knew him best.
Hahn, 27, who majored in recreation, parks and tourism management at Penn State, was one of the most talented football players to ever hit the Long Island gridiron before being recruited by Paterno.
Rushing for 3,920 career yards at St. Anthony’s and breaking the CHSFL rushing record with 2,057 yards as a senior, Hahn was selected New York Daily News Player-of-the-Year in 2003, and was a two-time All-Long Island, All-State and CHSFL Player-of-the-Year honoree. St. Anthony’s also won three CHSFL titles with his help.
Hahn said he and Paterno had a "great" relationship.
"He never lied to me about anything in terms of what my role was going to be there and he was truthful about the education I was going to get," said Hahn.
In a press release following the ruling Monday, Penn State accepted the penalties of the NCAA for the failure of leadership that occurred on campus.
Paterno's statue was taken down by Penn State Sunday.
"The tragedy of child sexual abuse that occurred at our university altered the lives of innocent children," said Penn State President Rodney Erickson in a press release Monday. "Today, as every day, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of Mr. Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse."