LOS ANGELES - Feisty as ever, Joe Paterno fired off a friendly zinger as he walked out of the hotel ballroom, cutting out early on Rose Bowl media day to get ready for practice.
'I don't give a darn about your new year, but I hope mine's happy,' Penn State's 82-year-old coach said Tuesday with a chuckle.
With a Big Ten championship, a surgically repaired hip and a new contract that could keep him around until 2011, Paterno's has plenty of reasons to be in a good mood.
Next up for the iconic octogenarian and No. 6 Penn State (11-1): a date Thursday with No. 5 Southern California (11-1) at the Rose Bowl in a made-for-Hollywood coaching matchup.
Only Paterno could outshine USC head coach Pete Carroll - college football's golden boy in Los Angeles - on the Trojans' home turf.
'I think it's remarkable, and I don't know how he does it,' Carroll said about Paterno's longevity. 'I don't know how he gets it done.'
The Trojans are 3-0 against the Big Ten in Rose Bowls coached under Carroll, outscoring opponents by a combined, 109-49. Overall, USC has been to seven BCS bowls in Carroll's eight seasons.
But Paterno, in his 43rd season as the lead Lion at Penn State, is the career leader in bowl wins (23) and appearances (36).
Whether JoePa will be pacing the sidelines in Pasadena for Penn State (11-1) in his trademark khakis and black sneakers remains unclear.
Almost six weeks after surgery to fix a sore hip that kept him in the press box for much of the season, Paterno said he's not in pain, though his right leg does get tired.
Besides rehab, Paterno is also walking around again at practice. Before surgery, JoePa did his poking and prodding on the practice field from a golf cart.
'I've seen him jogging a couple times,' quarterback Daryll Clark said. 'He's not of this world, man. I keep telling people that. ... I really hope he's down there on the sideline.'
Doctors had initially told him he wouldn't be able 'to do anything until six or seven weeks,' Paterno said.
'I probably could do about everything but I'm a little concerned. I can't make a lot of quick movements right now,' he added. 'I don't know. I really don't know.'
A certainty, however, is Paterno's contract situation. He agreed earlier this month to go another three years, which would put him at 85 in 2011.
Paterno called the university gracious for giving him the deal. He thanked his bosses and his assistant coaches for their loyalty.
But don't get too carried away that 2011 might REALLY be it for major college football's winningest coach.
'It has helped in a sense that some (recruits) know when I tell them that I'll be around three, four, five more years, that it is probably a reality,' Paterno said.
USC's Brian Cushing was one of those recruits four years ago, when Paterno visited the linebacker at his Park Ridge, N.J., home to try to convince him to attend Penn State.
Back then, in late 2004, the Nittany Lions were coming off a string of four losing seasons in five years. Some critics had called for Paterno's dismissal.
Cushing ultimately decided on USC because he wanted to get further away from home, though Paterno's future was a factor, too.