EAST LIVERPOOL – Lou Holtz examined the recently unveiled bronze sculpture of when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Saturday and pointed out that the bust adorning the hall of the Potter Fieldhouse was a symbolic message to the young people who will pass by from now.
“I think back to every time I was in high school” Holtz said. “My dad had a third grade education, I was born during the depression, no welfare, no food stamps. We always had plenty to eat because when my dad asked for a few seconds he said” you already have a lot to eat”. We were blessed. (In high school) I was not a great athlete, I was not a class officer, I never had dates, I never never at prom. If you go back and look at my high school record, you’ll look at it and say, ‘God, he has absolutely no future.’ How did I get here?Because of good people.
Holtz was in town Saturday as part of the festivities surrounding the final induction ceremony into the Lou Holtz-Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame.
In a 20-minute speech to the packed Potter Fieldhouse lobby, Holtz thanked the people who shaped him into a College Football Hall of Fame coach, esteemed citizen, and proud father and husband.
The coach was introduced by East Liverpool Mayor Greg Bricker, East Liverpool City Schools Superintendent Jonathan Ludwig and East Liverpool friend and historian Frank Dawson.
Dawson walked out the door with an anecdote about his first encounter with Lou when he was the coach of the football team measuring heights and weights. Holtz was just a skinny kid standing in line hoping we wouldn’t look too skinny.
“He said, ‘If I stay in this line all this time and I don’t weigh 100 pounds, I’m going to be sick,'” said Dawson. “Well, he did like everything he did.”
It took a long time to install the sculpture, as initial plans were for it to be unveiled in the summer of 2021. But due to the pandemic and other factors, it had to wait.
The wait was worth it for the supporters present.
Holtz, a 1954 graduate of East Liverpool High School, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump on December 3, 2020 at the White House.
The speech, however, did not address this event and largely reflected what the people of East Liverpool meant to him throughout his life. He raised people like his former high school football coach, Wade Watts, who encouraged Lou to coach.
“He meant high school coaching, not Notre Dame!” Holtz said.
Holtz also told a moving story about his late wife Beth’s 22-year battle with cancer. He said that even though he had done thousands of interviews during his life, she never did until the very end of her life.
“She’s only done one interview in her entire life and it was about cancer,” Holtz said. “They said ‘Mrs. Holtz, what have you learned from your cancer? She said I learned how much my family loves me. Why do we have to wait until disaster strikes before we realize it?
He said the lesson to be learned is to reach out and show people you care and he linked that to encouraging everyone in the audience to give young people a chance.
“I’m just an average individual, however you want to see it,” Holtz said. “I hope when future students look at the bust and talk about Lou Holtz, they will think anything is possible. If this guy can do it, I sure can because I have more talent than him.