UW football is "a sleeping giant" and Nick Holt plans to inject adrenaline
Hunkered behind a table, in front of a microphone, Nick Holt looked ready to burst out of his chair and run through a wall at Hec Ed and...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Meet Nick Holt
Hunkered behind a table, in front of a microphone, Nick Holt looked ready to burst out of his chair and run through a wall at Hec Ed and blast his way onto the Husky Stadium turf.
Fists clenching, jaw jutting, his brows sitting just above his piercing eyes, the new Washington defensive coordinator turned his introductory news conference into another football revival meeting.
It was Knute Rockne meets Norman Vincent Peale. It was Douglas MacArthur rallying the troops. It was a little FDR, a little JFK, a little Bob Knight and a little Mike Holmgren.
Holt spoke with the rapidity of a machine gun. Words spilled out of his mouth like rounds of ammunition. And his sentences were full of hyperbole and full of intensity.
It was, to use Holt's favorite word, "awesome."
He called the Washington football program, "a sleeping giant." He called coach Steve Sarkisian "a rising star," and said, "I want to be a part of it."
Holt, who left USC and its seven consecutive Pac-10 titles to work at a school that has had five straight losing seasons and finished 0-12 last year, said he was coming to Washington to work for "the best head coach in America."
He said the school was "awesome," the alumni were "awesome," the tradition was "awesome," the people were "awesome." He said Beacon Hill was "awesome."
In a half-hour early Tuesday afternoon, Holt shattered the unofficial Pac-10 record for the use of the word "awesome," and every time he used it, it sounded sincere.
"It's only a matter of time before it's going to happen here," Holt said, talking about the turnaround in the school's football fortunes.
Under Sarkisian's predecessor, Tyrone Willingham, emotion like this was locked behind closed doors. Willingham seemed almost afraid to let go, to publicly show how much he cared, to let us see him sweat.
But Sarkisian and Holt are all about the sweat.
"We want to change the landscape of this place," Sarkisian said, sitting to Holt's right.
At Tuesday's gathering, Holt generated enough energy to light up a small town, something needed at Washington as much as better players. Listen to Holt for a few minutes and even middle-aged reporters were ready to hit somebody.
"Trust us," said Holt, whose message was meant for the 50-some defensive players he will be coaching and for the recruits whose living rooms he will be visiting. "Let's start believing. Get a smile on your face and let's go. Come on, it's not that bad. Let's wake up. Let's move on, guys."
Holt is leaving the lush life at USC because Washington offers him the opportunity to call his own game. Even though he was the defensive coordinator at USC and ran the defensive practices and scripted the game plan, coach Pete Carroll called the plays on Saturdays.
Now Saturdays will belong to Holt.
"I feel really ready to do it all myself," he said. "And I believe this place can make things happen."
Like Sarkisian, Holt is another needed shot of adrenaline injected into a slumbering giant.
"This place is starving to win," Sarkisian said. "It's starving for winning football. And the commitment they made to myself and to the assistant coaches, including Nick, shows they want to win football games."
How committed to winning is this Washington administration? Holt was given an eyebrow-raising three-year contract worth $2.1 million.
He will make more than he made at USC. He will make more than Washington State coach Paul Wulff.
It's also more than any college professor could dream of making, and Holt talked frankly about the pay discrepancies between the teachers on the football field and the teachers in the classrooms.
"There's so much more to coaching college kids than just going out on Saturdays and getting the big paychecks or scoring touchdowns and getting sacks and causing fumbles," he said. "It's the development of people and the fact that we can make a difference in these kids' lives.
"I think it's unfortunate that the really good professors don't get paid as much as we do. Unfortunately that's the world we live in. I can't do anything about that. I'd love to pay some of my great English teachers at UOP [alma mater University of the Pacific] loads of money because they made a difference with me."
Holt is a teacher, a well-paid teacher, at a place that believes in the importance of football for the overall health of the university. And Tuesday was another indication that spring has sprung for Washington football.
This longtime sickly program is getting well again.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
email@example.com | 206-464-2176