Kelchner, Christopher Newport University's head coach, grew up in Covington, Pa., about a 90-minute drive from Penn State's campus in State College. His father, Rod, was a high school coach and began taking Matt to Nittany Lions games during the 1960s.
"When I was a kid I ran out onto that field after games, and I shook Coach Paterno's hand," Kelchner said. "I jumped on the backs of (All-Americans) Dennis Onkotz and Jack Ham. I'd ask those guys for a chinstrap, anything."
Kelchner wasn't good enough to play for Paterno but never lost his affection for the man and his program.
As a coach, he befriended members of Paterno's staff such as Tom Bradley and Bill Kenney. As a parent, he took his kids to campus and showed them the program's Heisman Trophies and other memorabilia. Indeed, Kelchner couldn't have been happier when his parents moved to State College 10 years ago.
Saturday, hours after his CNU team clinched the USA South Conference championship with a victory at Ferrum, Kelchner heard the news: Jerry Sandusky, an assistant coach under Paterno from 1968-99, had been accused of sexually assaulting eight young boys from 1994-2009.
Sandusky served as Paterno's defensive coordinator for 23 years and in 2000 was a finalist to succeed George Welsh as Virginia's head coach. But U.Va. officials considered Sandusky so devoted to his charity for troubled youth, The Second Mile, that they questioned his commitment to coaching.
Authorities now say Sandusky used that charity to prey on boys, and court documents contend that in 2002 a then-graduate assistant coach witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in the showers of the Nittany Lions locker room. The graduate assistant believed the child was about 10 years old.
The graduate assistant informed Paterno of the incident, and Paterno, in sworn grand jury testimony, said he told athletic director Tim Curley that the graduate assistant had witnessed Sandusky "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."
But in a reprehensible moral lapse, Paterno, Curley and other Penn State administrators did little else.
"Despite a powerful eyewitness statement about the sexual assault of a child, this incident was not reported to any law enforcement or child protective agency, as required by Pennsylvania law," state attorney general Linda Kelly said in a news release. "Additionally, there is no indication that anyone from the university ever attempted to learn the identity of the child who was sexually assaulted on their campus or made any follow-up effort to obtain more information from the person who witnessed the attack first-hand."
Kelly said authorities have no plans to charge the 84-year-old Paterno, but the coach's failure to confront Sandusky and search out the victim rendered him unfit for his position.
Paterno announced his retirement Wednesday, effective at season's end. It was a sad, desperate attempt to hold on to what was lost.
Two national championships, a Beaver Stadium statue and record 409 victories notwithstanding, Paterno had no business coaching another game, and late Wednesday night, Penn State's Board of Trustees fired him, effective immediately.
A man who preached accountability for 46 seasons was held accountable.
"The thing I can't get over is this," Kelchner said. "Joe Paterno has always been to me a high-character guy. So how can he keep that (knowledge) inside and live with that for so many years? That's got to be a hard burden to carry.
"It's hard for me to believe that Coach Paterno, for all that he's stood for, knew what the deal was. But maybe he had us all fooled, too. He said Sandusky fooled everyone, well, maybe (Paterno) did, too."
And what of the witness, whom the Harrisburg Patriot-News has identified as current Penn State receivers coach Mike McQueary? How could he flee the scene rather than intervene on the child's behalf?
"There are so many unanswered questions," Kelchner said. "But if that's me, only one man is coming out of (that locker room) alive. Maybe it's me, maybe it's (Sandusky). But only one of us is coming out of there."
Kelchner paused and considered recent scandals at North Carolina, Ohio State and Southern California. He recalled meeting Sandusky twice, at a coaches' clinic and at Penn State.
"This trumps everything," Kelchner said. "How many lives were impacted because there's one sick man out there?"
Kelchner still has his scrapbook of his Penn State ticket stubs. He remembers details from Nittany Lions games he attended not only in Happy Valley but also at Syracuse and Pittsburgh. He considers coaching against Penn State in 1984 as a William and Mary assistant a career highlight.
"That's a big chunk of me," Kelchner said. "That's a big chunk out of my soul. You just wish you'd wake up from this bad dream."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP