Few people in the history of college sports have been more influential or had a bigger impact than Lou Holtz. Winner of the three national Coach of the Year honors, the only coach ever to lead six different schools to season-ending bowl games, and the ninth-winningest coach in college football history, Holtz is still teaching and coaching, although he is no longer on the gridiron.
In his most telling work to date, the man still known as "Coach" by all who cross his path reveals what motivated a rail-thin 135-pound kid with marginal academic credentials and a pronounced speech impediment to play and coach college football, and to become one of the most sought-after motivational speakers in history. With unflinching honesty and his trademark dry wit, Holtz goes deep, giving us the intimate details of the people who shaped his life and the decisions he would make that shaped the lives of so many others.
His is a storied career, and Holtz provides a frank and inside look at the challenges he overcame to turn around the programs at William and Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, and Minnesota. From growing up in East Liverpool, Ohio, to his early days as a graduate assistant at the University of Iowa, to his national championship runs at Notre Dame and his final seasons on the sidelines in South Carolina, Lou Holtz gives his best, a poignant, funny, and instructive look into a life well lived.
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Wins, Losses, and LessonsAn Autobiography
By Lou Holtz
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Lou Holtz
All right reserved.
It's Not What You Have,
It's Who You Have
When I die and people realize that I will not be resurrected in three days, they will forget me. That is the way it should be. For reasons known only to God, I was asked to write an autobiography. Most people who knew me growing up didn't think I would ever read a book, let alone write one. Anyway, here goes:
I was born January 6, 1937, eight years after Wall Street crashed, and two years before John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath, his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the plight of a family during the Great Depression. How bad was it? Well, we weren't Okies, in the sense that we weren't from Oklahoma, but in every other respect the Holtzes of West Virginia could easily have been mistaken for the Joads of the dust bowl South.
Like many children of that era, I was born at home. Hospitals were expensive, and Dr. McGraw, our local physician, made house calls, so there was never a question about where the labor and delivery would take place. My parents, Andrew and Anne Marie, rented a two-room cellar in Follansbee, West Virginia, a small steel mill town in the northernmost sliver of the state between Ohio and Pennsylvania. That's where God saw fitfor me to join this world and where I lived the early years of my life. Not that where we lived mattered much: the majority of the people in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and West Virginia survived in spartan conditions similar to our own.
My father's father, Leo Holtz, had moved to Follansbee from Rossiter, Pennsylvania, about five miles from Punxsutawney, to work at Wheeling Steel. Grandpa Holtz had been a coal miner in Rossiter, where he lived in company housing and was paid in company scrip that could be redeemed only at the company store, a situation so akin to indentured servitude that it was later outlawed. It took a lot of courage for him to pick up the family and move, but if you've ever been inside a coal mine, you can understand his motivation.
My grandmother, Jenny Holtz, was a deeply spiritual woman who attended mass every day of her life. She also lost her first two children at birth, both boys she had named Andrew. When my father came along she named him Andrew as well. It must have given the Rossiter records office fits--all those birth and death certificates with the same name--but somehow my dad made it, and grew up the oldest living Holtz child. He had two sisters, Mary and Evelyn, and two brothers, my uncles Leo and John.
My father stayed in Follansbee after he married my mom, even though the work was sparse. Dad picked up odd jobs here and there, working on the railroad, driving a truck for a while, and a bus for a period. We never went without food, but like most people in town we lived on the bare minimum. I always knew I'd had plenty to eat because when I asked for more my father would say, "No, you've had plenty."
Our cellar home had a kitchen and a combination bedroom and half bath, which meant we had a sink next to the bed. We had no refrigerator, no shower or tub, and no privacy. My parents shared the bedroom with my sister and me. We bathed in the sink when we could, ate outside when the weather permitted, and slept in whatever configuration kept us warm and comfortable. We didn't have a closet, because we didn't need one. I owned one pair of overalls and one flannel shirt, an outfit I wore every day. My mother washed it on the weekends, and my father always said, "Be careful playing. If you rip a hole in your butt it will heal. A hole in those pants won't." I wish my father had listened to his own warnings. When I was in grade school, Dad spilled paint on my only shirt. Up to that point, nobody had known that I wore the same clothes every day. Other kids just assumed I owned four or five identical outfits and had no sense of style. But with paint on my shirt it became obvious that I never changed clothes.
We needed a raise to be considered poor. Every day we awoke to hardship, and every night we fell asleep thankful for one more day of sustenance. At age nine, I got a paper route. Sixty-six papers had to be delivered to sixty-six families every day. I also had to collect thirty cents a week from each customer. I owed the paper twenty cents per customer per week, and got to keep the rest. When I didn't collect, the balance came out of my profit. My average income was six dollars a week.
Every member of the family did what he or she could to help make ends meet, same as all the other families in our area. No one I ever knew used the words "disposable" and "income" in the same sentence. At age five, I got my first Coke. It was so good that I wanted it to last. Chances were pretty good that it might be three or four years before I would get another one. So after a few sips, I put the bottle in the windowsill (we didn't have an icebox, much less a refrigerator). Unfortunately, the next morning the soda was flat and stale and had to be thrown away. As a five-year-old, I suddenly understood that you should enjoy life's blessings, no matter how small, when you can, because they won't last forever.
Yes, we were poor, but we always had one another. Unlike some of today's young people, I never suffered from depression, never needed therapy, never contemplated injuring myself or others, and never fretted over all the things I didn't have. I was a . . .
Excerpted from Wins, Losses, and Lessons by Lou Holtz Copyright © 2006 by Lou Holtz. Excerpted by permission.
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