Sept. 9, 2017
By John Heisler
At one turn there were former University of Notre Dame football all-stars Frank Stams and Derrick Mayes.
At the other end of the room were Steve Beuerlein and Oscar McBride.
There were Randy Kinder and Corny Southall—and over there Reggie Brooks, Mike Brennan and Jeremy Akers.
The seventh annual Lou’s Lads event—which takes place at the second Notre Dame home football game each season—came on the same date the Irish played host to a Southeastern Conference opponent in a dozen years with a matchup against Georgia.
But, for several hours Saturday morning at O’Brien’s atop the Compton Family Ice Arena, more than 300 guests packed the room to listen to former Irish football coach Lou Holtz rekindle memories, pay tribute to the foundation work of his former players and entertain an audience.
It has been 31 years since Holtz first came to work in South Bend—and that meant many of his former players now were introducing their wives and kids to their former Irish head coach. The players shared plenty of stories and hugs.
After a Friday night dinner at nearby Parisi’s for Holtz, his former players and their wives, Saturday was a celebration of all the good things Holtz’s players are now doing under the Lou’s Lads tag.
Holtz’s players have embraced the Bread of Life Food Drive, a four-year-old springtime event based in Staten Island Island, New York, that over those four years has provided more than one million food items to shelters and food banks while growing the number of participating cities from 35 in 2014 to 191 this year.
The Lou’s Lads endowed scholarship fund now stands at more than half-million dollars, with more than $100,000 in grants already awarded. At today’s event the 2017 scholarship recipients were introduced: sophomore Claire DiOrio of Columbus, Ohio (daughter of former Holtz player Doug DiOrio), sophomore Richard Wilson (Indianapolis, Ind.) and senior and three-time awardee Will Lederer (Deerfield, Ill.)
Wondering about the firepower of this group? Longtime Lou’s Lads board member Tom Galloway offered four autographed Holtz footballs at $2,500 each and in less than two minutes he had raised $10,000 that will be used to assist storm victims in Texas and Florida.
Holtz was the featured speaker and, as he noted to start, “Everywhere you look you see a memory or story.”
Holtz kidded that he might do things differently if he was back coaching those same Irish teams again:
“I’m getting old. My birthday candles cost more than the cake right now. So I want to thank the players, whether you were a walk-on or a four-year starter. You were important to the program, and you were important to my life.
“I also want to apologize because I could have done a better job of coaching and I mean that sincerely. I’ve learned that what you say is important, but it’s not near as important as your tone of voice and your facial expressions.
“I’d be upset and I’d scream and holler to get my message across. If I was coaching again, it would be so much better (major laughter from the players).
“I would put my arm around you and I’d be smiling and say, ‘Jim, that was a dumb--- thing to do. I can’t wait to see you at practice on Monday. We’re never going to recruit in your state again.’
“And everybody watching would say, ‘Oh, he loves those players.’ I did love you –I just showed it a little differently.”
Holtz recalled the death of Bobby Satterfield the same night after the 1988 national title squad had returned from the White House after meeting with President Ronald Reagan.
“When I told the players at a team meeting early the next morning that we had lost Bobby Satterfield, one player passed out. Several others were openly crying. If you were in that room, you wouldn’t have known if Bobby Satterfield was white or black, first team or third team, offense or defense, freshman or senior, scholarship or walk-on. You couldn’t tell.
“What you could tell is that the players in that room had lost a true friend. It didn’t matter if he was a great part of the team—what mattered was that he was part of the team.
“The reason we’re born is to help people. If you’re doing it for yourself, you’re going to be a miserable, unhappy person. Life is all about caring about other people. That’s what Lou’s Lads is all about—it makes a difference to so many people. Why do we have to wait for a catastrophe to tell people we love them? It’s important that this group stays together and helps one another.”
Holtz announced that he has pledged $300,000 this year and another $200,000 next year to help educate the children of deceased members of his Irish teams—or to assist any of his former Irish players who encounter difficulty in making the college dream reality for their children.
Next year’s Irish home opener against Michigan will mark the occasion of the 30th anniversary reunion for Stams and Southall and the other members of that ’88 championship team.
It may be nearly three decades later, but—thanks to Lou’s Lads--Holtz, Stams, Southall and all the others haven’t stopped making a difference.