At age 79 and no longer coaching major college football, you’d think Lou Holtz might have lost a step.
That certainly wasn’t the case Saturday when Holtz walked briskly out on stage at the main tent at the Bakersfield Business Conference to deliver a motivational speech that drew plenty of laughter and applause from the gathered crowd.
“I’m so old now my birthday candles cost more than my cake,” he cracked, but it was clear Holtz isn’t counting the years.
Holtz spent nearly 40 years as a head coach for major college programs, from North Carolina State and Arkansas in the 1970s to Notre Dame in the 1980s and 1990s to South Carolina from 1999-2004. He also spent 1976 in the NFL as the New York Jets’ head coach.
He won 249 collegiate games, three conference titles and the 1988 national championship with Notre Dame. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
“People ask me, ‘How do you be successful?’” Holtz said. “There are thousands of words in the English language, and only one is critical: ‘Choice.’ If you want to improve your life, write down on a piece of paper what your goal is for one year from now. Write down the talents you need and the work you need to do to get there. You have to choose to succeed.”
Holtz spoke at the same time as Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and while Arpaio’s conservative stances drew thunderous applause in the smaller Political Tent, Holtz stayed away from any political talk in the Main Tent, even though he’s recently commented on immigration and national anthem protests staged in the NFL.
Instead, Holtz stuck with a motivational tack, speaking of how the “dumbest thing” he ever did was to try to “maintain” Notre Dame’s success rather than build on it, and how he dealt with adversity, including his wife’s cancer scares and the build-up to the 1978 Orange Bowl, during which he suspended three of Arkansas’ best players only to lead the Razorbacks to a win against Oklahoma anyway.