Always affable, Holtz gets an extra glint in his eye when asked what’s great about being the Lou Holtz.
“Being married to Beth,” he said with a smile and yet with a tone that means he’s serious.
Holtz was married to the former Beth Barcus on July 22, 1961. He graduated from East Liverpool High School in 1956 and two years later, she did the same.
On Friday, the couple returned to the area to take part in the Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame induction ceremony for 2008 and to hand out grants to area teachers and scholarships to area students.
Holtz stays busy but finds enough time to make the trek to his hometown to give a little back to a community that helped inspire him.
“To come back here and see what they’ve done with the Hall of Fame and to be with these inductees who have made such a difference in the community ... It’s always good to be home,” Holtz said.
Holtz has a reputation of constantly redefining himself — former NCAA football and NFL head coach, author, motivational speaker and television commentator quickly come to mind. But one thing has remained constant — Lou Holtz has faith.
Consider a few of his quotes as the days have gone by:
l “Don’t be a spectator, don’t let life pass you by.”
l “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.”
l “If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today.”
l “No one has ever drowned in sweat.”
l “Life is a matter of choices. Just do the right thing.”
Living in East Liverpool and growing up in the Tri-State area forged Holtz into the Lou Holtz of today. It’s the same qualities he sees in the four people inducted into the 2008 Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame on Friday.
“The leadership and the amount of jobs they (Mountaineer CEO Ted Arneault and cyber school champion Nick Trombetta) have brought into the area, and Suzan Smith in her role as leading the (Hancock County) school system ... That’s who’s made a difference in the communities,” Holtz said.
Then there’s former Steeler great Jerome Bettis, a Notre Dame player under coach Holtz who attended Friday’s ceremony — with his Super Bowl ring — and was inducted as this year’s Distinguished American.
“Jerome Bettis is a prime example of an individual that has given back to his community and truly cares,” Holtz said, adding that the gridiron great comes from a strong, loving family who instilled in him the same values of hard work and honesty. “Jerome was never a problem at Notre Dame, but he was a challenge,” Holtz said with a grin.
This year, the event has been spread over two days, and Holtz will spend today with the 2008 recipients of the Lou Holtz Life Improvement Scholarship Award.
Holtz believes in tempering lessons from the past with remaining active in helping to guide others.
“Before, we didn’t get a chance to spend enough time with the students,” Holtz said. “This will let me talk to them for a half hour or so, shake hands and have a question-and-answer session.”
In a new effort, nine local teachers have been selected as winners of the “I Believe in YOUth” grants.
The crowds went to the Hall of Fame on Friday to catch a glimpse of Holtz and Bettis to be sure, but to also support the programs that give back to the community.
As the sun set Friday and the crowd shifted from downtown East Liverpool to the Motor Lodge for the induction banquet, Holtz was able to gather more memories about his and Beth’s hometown.
“It’s good to be home,” Holtz said. “Growing up here I learned morals, values and a good work ethic and the fact you were responsible for the decisions you make. You were accountable. People care about other people here. It’s a good feeling.”
Father of PA Cyber Schools, Buckeye Online School for Success (BOSS), the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center and the National Network for Digital Schools, as well as a noted area wrestling coach.
- “It’s a wonderful honor for me, my family and my friends, and to get together with them and experience this.”
- “Coach Holtz obviously cares about his home town and this region. It’s a great thing for him to do to give back.”
- “I’m not real big on receiving awards, but when I asked who else would be inducted and they told me Jerome Bettis, I said, ‘I’m in!’”
- “What I appreciate is how much this community has given back to me — East Liverpool in particular, and Midland for sure.”
- “Coach Holtz believes in treating everyone fair and with compassion. I hope I’ve treated folks as well as they have treated me.”
Superintendent of Hancock County Schools.
- “This is one of the greatest honors I’ll ever receive in my lifetime. I’m truly honored and humbled to be recognized.”
- “I commend him (Holtz) for not only recognizing the importance of education in general, but also for recognizing the importance of vocational education. Skilled workers play a tremendous role in the success of this country.”
- “I never would have dreamed I would be accepted in such a prestigious Hall of Fame.”
- “The other inductees should be honored and congratulated for their role in helping shape the community.”
President, CEO and chairman of the board of directors of MTR Gaming Group, Inc.
- “To be here with the others inducted is an honor. I’ve known Jerome for awhile now, and I know a lot about the others. It’s a great honor.”
- “This is not an honor for just me, but for the entire management and leadership team we’ve put together at Mountaineer.”
- “We’ve created a whole team at Mountaineer and started out with 350 employees and now have close to 2,500. It’s quite a story.”
- “To have the coach (Holtz) here doing what he’s doing for the community is something truly special.”
Former Steeler great and a Notre Dame player under Holtz.
- “Coach Holtz is the greatest. When I was a 17-year-old kid, he was instrumental in the development of me as a man. For that, I owe him a lot of gratitude.”
- “From coach Holtz, I learned to always be optimistic. He was more than a teacher — he was a mentor, in a way.”
- “My road in life is not sketched out now. It affords me the opportunity to spend more time with my family.”
Alex Dawson of East Liverpool has former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis sign his football prior to the Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame induction ceremony Friday night. (Photo by Wayne Maris) View additional photos at cu.reviewonline.com.