Lou Holtz

Holtz Headlines Lou’s Lads Event

 Yes, it was the Notre Dame-Michigan football weekend on the University of Notre Dame campus.
But Lou Holtz wasn’t in town to coach a football game. He did that plenty of times at Notre Dame Stadium from 1986 through 1996 and at other college venues around the country.
The former ESPN analyst wasn’t in town for the College GameDay event on the Hesburgh Library mall, either.
The Hall of Fame Irish head coach certainly did not mind that 75 of his former players (and approximately 95 individuals overall, including coaches, managers and trainers) from the 1988 Notre Dame championship team had returned to town for a reunion three decades after the fact.
No, the most noteworthy reason Holtz returned to South Bend for a whirlwind two-day list of stops (he and a big group of his former players stayed at Parisi’s until 1 a.m. Saturday sharing stories) was to celebrate the work of the Lou’s Lads Foundation.
The size of the ’88 group helped pack the Joyce Center Monogram Room Saturday morning as Derrick Mayes, Randy Kinder, Tom Galloway and Brian Baker from the Lou’s Lads board joined a long list of familiar Irish faces that included Tim Brown, Mike Brennan, Wes Pritchett, Devon McDonald, Jeremy Akers, Tom Freeman and way too many more to mention.
The eighth annual Lou’s Lads event (and its largest yet)—which normally takes place at the second Notre Dame home football game each season—came a week earlier this time due to the 1988 celebration.
So, for several hours Saturday morning, more than 300 guests listened to Holtz tell a few old stories, do his patented rip-the-newspaper trick, pay tribute to the foundation work of his former players and entertain the audience. But mostly he spoke directly to the players he once coached.
There’s nothing more impressive about what Holtz’s players have done with the foundation than their work with the Bread of Life Food Drive, a five-year-old springtime event based in Staten Island, New York. They have now provided 1,450,000 food items to shelters and food banks while growing the number of participating cities from 35 in 2014 to 210 this year. Executive director Joe Delaney challenged the Lou’s Lads roster to ensure 100 former Irish players take part in the next drive.
The Lou’s Lads endowed scholarship fund now stands at more than a half-million dollars, with more than $100,000 in grants already awarded. At today’s event the 2018 scholarship recipient was three-time winner Richard Wilson (a Notre Dame junior from Indianapolis) who already has done extensive breast cancer research and eventually intends to pursue a doctorate degree in cell biology.
The morning began with Galloway reading an invocation provided by current Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., who paid tribute to the good works of Holtz and his players.
Notre Dame Alumni Association executive director Dolly Duffy was on hand to note that the work of Lou’s Lads and the Bread of Life Food Drive combined to earned the association’s 2018 award for volunteers of the year.
Twenty-two years after Holtz last coached a game here, attendees were invited to call out the names of their former teammates who are no longer alive—and the names of Jeff Alm, Justin Hall (his wife and three children were in the audience), Bobby Satterfield, Braxston Banks, Dave Duerson, Demetrius DuBose, Mirko Jurkovic, Dean Brown, Wally Kleine, Kenny Spears and Rodney Culver rang out.
As he did a year ago at this event, Holtz recalled the death of Satterfield the same night after the 1988 national title squad had returned from the White House after meeting with President Ronald Reagan:
“When I told the players at a team meeting early the next morning that we had lost Bobby Satterfield, one player passed out. Several others were openly crying. If you were in that room, you wouldn’t have known if Bobby Satterfield was white or black, first team or third team, offense or defense, freshman or senior, scholarship or walk-on. You couldn’t tell.
“What you could tell is that the players in that room had lost a true friend. It didn’t matter if he was a great part of the team—what mattered was that he was part of the team.”
Holtz had plenty left in the tank:
–He noted that he is working with Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to help young people make proper and better choices and identify role models – and he said he is convinced his work can make a difference in young people’s lives, challenging his former players to step up and be those role models.
–“Ten percent of you won’t remember 10 percent of what I said 10 minutes after I’ve said it.”
–“If you didn’t show up, who would miss you and why?”
–“Vinny Cerrato was the best recruiter in America. He alone accounted for more NCAA rules being put in place than anyone. We’re at the Orange Bowl and I’m calling plays and Vinny is right beside me with a cell phone talking to a prospect, and he says, ‘Coach, what’s the next play?’ And I’m trying to win a damn game.”
–“I apologized last night to the players because I sometimes got on ’em and screamed and hollered. I only did that for my own good. It made me feel good to get on people.”
–“I told the players, ‘You do what I ask for four years, I’ll do what you ask me to do for 40 years.’ Thank God the 40 are almost up.”
–“I remember when we were going into the press conference after I was hired. (University president) Father (Theodore) Hesburgh said, ‘I’m going to go in and announce that you are the new football coach at Notre Dame. I cannot announce to the world you are the leader of the Notre Dame football team. I can give you a title, but the players will determine if you are a leader.'”
–“We often don’t let people know that we care. Tell them you love them while they’re still around.”
–“If we’d had a playoff back when I was at Notre Dame, we would have been in it eight or nine of those years.”
–“Every place I coached we gave the players questionnaires to fill out. But only at Notre Dame did I have to get a dictionary to read the answers because they used such big words.”
–“Against Michigan in 1988 we had a five-foot-four kicker named Reggie Ho kick four field goals. I have to take credit for that success because I asked the grounds crew not to paint the goal posts. If they’d painted the goal posts some of those field goals wouldn’t have gone over.”
–He paid tribute to his first two Notre Dame teams in 1986 and ’87 for “setting the standard” for the Irish success to come. He recalled an early conversation with 1986 senior quarterback Steve Beuerlein: “I sat down with him and he was a three-year starter. I liked a running quarterback and he wasn’t very fast, but I said I could live with that. He said, ‘How fast do you think I am?’ I said, ‘If you got in a race with a pregnant mother, the best you’d finish would be third.’ What bothered me was that he threw 17 interceptions as a junior. I made a commitment that Steve would not throw seven interceptions his senior year. Steve said, ‘That’s great. Is it the way you run the routes or read the coverages?’ I said, ‘No, after you throw six you aren’t playing any more.'”
–“I think back to all those players on those early teams when we changed their positions for the good of the team—Tom Gorman, Frank Stams, Rod West. And it wasn’t always in their best interests.”
–After he did his newspaper trick, Holtz said, “Somebody said, ‘How do you do that?’ I said, ‘Perfectly, I thought.'”
John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame. He is editor of the award-winning “Strong of Heart” series.