Feature   Know Your Military

Sports Heroes Who Served: Football Coach Recounts Lessons Learned in Army

Jan. 5, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Louis "Lou" Leo Holtz has spent much of his life on the gridiron. From 1956 to 1957, he played football as a linebacker at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

While at Kent State, he was also enrolled in Army ROTC and was commissioned in the Field Artillery Branch of the Army Reserve when he graduated.

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Lou Holtz Speaks
Lou Holtz speaks to service members at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea, June 5, 2017.
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In a career that spanned 44 years, Holtz held a variety of football coaching jobs at the college and National Football League levels.

He was assistant coach at: the University of Iowa in 1960; the College of William and Mary, 1961 to 1963; the University of Connecticut, 1964 to 1965; the University of South Carolina, 1966 to 1967; and Ohio State University, 1968.

Holtz was head coach at: the College of William and Mary, 1969 to 1970; North Carolina State University, 1972 to 1975; New York Jets, 1976; University of Arkansas, 1977 to 1983; University of Minnesota, 1984 to 1985; Notre Dame University, 1986 to 1996; and, the University of South Carolina, 1999 to 2004.

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Lou Holtz Remarks
Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz speaks to soldiers as part of Operation Honor Our Troops, June 6, 2013 at Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak, Afghanistan.
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Lou Holtz Visit
Lou Holtz (center) prepares to board a helicopter while traveling with Operation Honor Our Troops at Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 6, 2013.
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Despite moving around a lot, his college coaching record was stellar: 249-132-7. His NFL coaching record wasn't as impressive: 3-10.

Later, he became a football analyst for CBS Sports and ESPN.

Throughout his football fame, Holtz never forgot his Army roots. 

He has frequently visited U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, talking to them about football and leadership. He's also a member of the American Legion in Indiana.

He once said the Army and ROTC "have been a positive thing in my life because I wasn't very good in discipline or leadership skills. I learned lessons in leadership and self-discipline."

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Hall of Fame Coach
Lou Holtz speaks to service members June 21, 2016, at U.S. Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
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On June 21, 2016, Holtz visited U.S. Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, where he shared his football experiences and lessons learned.

''I am a big believer in accountability and responsibility, and I learned that from my time in the military,'' Holtz said. ''There is never a wrong time to do the right thing, just like there is no right time to do the wrong thing.''

He emphasized the importance of working as a team, setting goals, and caring for others.

''You've got to make a sincere attempt to have the right goals to begin with, and then go after them with appropriate effort,'' Holtz said. ''And remember that you can't really achieve anything great without the help of others.''

Holtz then expanded on the importance of teamwork in the military.

A man stands at a lectern and speaks into a microphone; the lectern is draped with a banner that reads "The American Legion."
Lou Holtz Speech
Lou Holtz speaks at an American Legion event in Indianapolis where he received the Legion's Good Guy Award, Aug. 26, 2019.
Photo By: Courtesy of Ryan Young/American Legion
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''Our country has never faced greater challenges than we have right now,'' said Holtz. ''We need that teamwork, and we need to work together for that common cause. You can't be at your best without working together.''

In 2019, Holtz was presented with the American Legion's James V. Day ''Good Guy'' Award in Indianapolis.

''For many years, this coach and great American has contributed time and resources to charitable endeavors, including the Lou's Lads Foundation, the Holtz Charitable Foundation and numerous other great causes,'' American Legion past national commander Daniel M. Dellinger said while presenting the award.

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