NEW YORK — The former Penn State assistant football coach at the heart of a massive sex scandal said he showered with young boys and hugged them but called the allegedly criminal contact “horseplay.”

Jerry Sandusky told NBC News’ “Rock Center” on Monday night that he was not a pedophile but, in retrospect, should not have showered with the boys he’s charged with sexually assaulting.

In an interview with Bob Costas, Sandusky, once considered the heir apparent to coaching legend Joe Paterno, proclaimed his innocence in the face of a series of startling allegations detailed in a grand jury report issued last week.

“I am innocent of those charges,” Sandusky said. “... I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact.”

Sandusky is accused of sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year span, with some of the alleged crimes happening at Penn State, where he had access to campus as an emeritus professor following his 1999 retirement as Paterno’s top defensive assistant.

Asked whether he was sexually attracted to underage boys, he said “sexually attracted, no. I enjoy young people, I love to be around them, but, no, I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.”

Asked if there was anything he had done wrong, Sandusky said, “I shouldn’t have showered with those kids.”

When pressed about how two people could claim to have witnessed Sandusky engaged in sexual contact with boys on two different occasions, Sandusky replied that “you’d have to ask” them.

The scandal has hit hard the community called Happy Valley, where “success with honor” is the motto. Paterno and University President Graham Spanier have lost their jobs and Athletic Director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz face perjury charges.

The interview with Costas was Sandusky’s first public comment on the charges. He had previously maintained his innocence through his attorney, Joe Amendola.

“We anticipate we’re going to have at least several of those kids come forward and say ‘This never happened. This is me. This is the allegation. It never occurred,’” Amendola said on the NBC broadcast.

The New York Times reported on its website late Monday that close to 10 additional suspected victims have come forward to authorities since Sandusky’s arrest, according to people close to the investigation. The paper said police were working to confirm the new allegations.

A spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly declined to comment on the interview, citing the active investigation.

Amendola earlier told CNN that his client was just behaving like “a jock.”

“Jerry Sandusky is a big overgrown kid,” Amendola said. “He’s a jock, and for anybody who’s ever played sports, you get showers after you work out.”

Wide receivers coach Mike McQueary told a grand jury that in March 2001 when he was a graduate assistant, he saw Sandusky sodomizing a boy about 10 years old in a shower at the Nittany Lions’ practice center. McQueary did not go to police but instead told Paterno, Curley and Schultz, although it is unclear how detailed a description he gave. Schultz, in turn, notified Spanier.

Sandusky told NBC there was no sexual contact.

“We were showering and horsing around, and he actually turned all the showers on and was actually sliding across the floor, and we were, as I recall, possibly like snapping a towel — horseplay,” he said.

Amendola accused the attorney general’s office of having “thrown everything they can throw up against the wall.” He said some of the allegations, such as putting a hand on a boy’s knee, do not constitute criminal conduct and other cases include no direct complaint by the boy.”

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.