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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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Page 27 of 81

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 28 the kind of man he'd become. He became one of Arnold's most productive and best players over the next two seasons, ending his career as a team captain and, ultimate- ly, ending up in the school's Hall of Fame. And, looking back now, the coach of 30-plus years can say Holt is one of his favorites. Because the Nick Holt fans see pacing, laser-focused and intense on Purdue's sidelines as the Boilermak- ers' linebackers coach, co-defensive coordinator and defensive play caller is, basically, the same Nick Holt from back then. Though toned down a bit. Maybe. "I don't know that Nick ever matured. I don't know that he's matured to this day," Arnold said with a laugh. "He was a real good player, 100 percent on the field at all times. We used to laugh at Nick, in a way, because he actually liked to practice football. How many guys like to practice? I played football, and I hated practice. So what you're talking about is an unusual kid who was a very good player. He was just a total pleasure to coach." Holt, certainly, thought about those Bellarmine Prep days recently. Probably as soon as Purdue found out its bowl desti- nation: The Boilermakers played Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl Dec. 27 in Santa Clara, Calif., at Levi's Stadi- um, which is 8.1 miles from Bellarmine. Holt's hometown of Lafayette is about 12 miles north- east of Oakland, where Purdue spent its bowl practices at Laney College. That's in the East Bay vicinity of Stockton, Calif., where Holt played his college ball at the University of the Pacif- ic and then, soon after, had his first coaching job at St. Mary's High School. So many memories in the Bay Area for Holt. If he drove past Berkeley, he'd surely remember all the Saturdays spent in the stadium with his dad, watching football. Though the 49ers are in a new stadium now — they played in Candlestick Park then — seeing those familiar red-and-gold color patterns flecked across Levi's Stadium surely reminded him of all those Niners' games from when he was a kid, too. Not that he also didn't attend his fair share of Raiders' games with his dad and his two sisters. "This is exciting. It's a good experi- ence, getting back to California," Holt said before Purdue arrived in the Bay Area. "I haven't been there for a little while. So it's pretty cool. My dad lived in San Francisco for many years. He's now deceased. But I've still got a lot of friends and family there. "I still have a lot of connections through my high school buddies and my college buddies and a lot of them still live in the Bay Area or California. A lot of my dad's friends. Lot of cousins and aunts and un- cles who still live in San Francisco. My wife has a sister who lives in San Francisco, so we get to see her, too." That hefty contingent of family and friends were in the stands for Purdue's 38-35 victory, including the guy who gave him his coaching start, Tony Franks, who just also happened to actually coach Holt for a brief period at Pa- cific. Franks was a volunteer assistant outside linebacker coach at UoP, so he got to know inside linebacker Holt during the spring session he was a coach. Franks wasn't at Pacific long, though, because a local high school, St. Mary's, offered him a head coaching job for the football program. Franks took it and, probably, figured he wouldn't see Holt again. Or at least not as quickly as he did. After Holt finished at Pacific where he was a four-year letterwinner, a team MVP, a captain and earned honor- able mention All-America in 1985, he signed to play in the USFL with the Orlando Renegades. But only a week before he was scheduled to head to training camp, the league folded. And Holt was left wondering what was next. He insists he didn't know he wanted to be a coach while he was in college, but it still seemed like the right next step. So he approached Franks and asked if he could help at St. Mary's. Franks didn't hesitate, even though he knew Holt "didn't have a lick of coaching experience." After a rough start as a full-time boarder at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, Calif., Holt finished his high school career with a flourish.

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