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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 29 Really, it didn't matter. Franks figured Holt would — and could — do whatever he was asked. That brief time at Pacific told him that. Then, he saw not only an intense player, but an incred- ibly dedicated one. Franks remembers a time when the team was in a "hot, dirty gym" doing conditioning drills — he jokingly exaggerated it as a million up-downs — and everyone was dripping sweat, just having it pool under them, and Holt was unfazed. "Nick is like, 'This is nothing for me. You can't beat me. I'm going to raise up everybody around me.' Not only would he do it himself, he would encourage everybody around him," Franks said. "He was just driven. He was just high energy. He was into it. That's what he wanted to do, and he was on his way." So, naturally, knowing Holt's makeup and personality, Franks said, "Yes." It's unclear entirely which positions Holt coached: Franks said he tasked Holt with the defense, but Holt said he was asked to coach the linebackers and the offensive line before, eventually, taking over the defense later after a coach had to leave the staff. Still, whatever Holt did, he did it well. "In knowing him as a player, he was just an intelligent, dominant, making-the-checks, getting-to-the-right-spot, just a super-confident player that you knew understood what he was doing. Whether he could teach it or not, you just don't know until you put somebody in that position. But, at that point, we were glad to have another warm body on the staff," said Franks, laughing. "Nick was clear- ly way more than a warm body. He was like five or six warm bodies. "He was really, really good. The players loved him be- cause he was kind of one of them. He was young. Every- body knew he loved the game. Just loved it. He had a re- ally high football intelligence level and really understood the game of football. Not only did he understand it, he could teach it to a young person. He could teach it to a young boy who maybe had never played before and really didn't understand. If he had to, he could throttle it down a little bit and help a young kid understand how to play the game." Just like he did as a player, Holt loved practices even as a coach. His day job, though? That was a bit different. While he was teaching football, Holt also was teaching as a substitute in the Stockton Unified School District. It is a district Holt called a "tough, tough" district that required him to deal with some "characters" and form some disciplinarian tendencies. But that time also helped Holt develop as a speaker, addressing larger groups each day, and helped him learn how to be prepared for anything. One day, he could be filling in for a history teacher. Another, science. Another, English. He always read up on the lesson plan, but he joked, mostly, he didn't know much on the subjects. "I thought I was a good teacher. I was entertaining," Holt said. "I might not have known the material very well, but I could go up there and ad lib for 45 minutes until the next class." Holt's personality seemed to be a perfect fit for work- ing with young people, whether it was in the classroom or on the football field. And it still is. Purdue's players say they love the passion Holt brings every day, and, though he expects much, he also balanc- es that standard with a willingness to teach and an obvi- ous compassion for their personal growth. "The energy he brings and the fire he has in him, you can tell the passion he has for the game, a guy you want to play for," captain Da'Wan Hunte said. "I wouldn't mind my children in the future playing for him. He brings it ev- ery day. He encourages us. He truly loves his players. You can't ask for a better coach than that. If I were to ever be- come a defensive coordinator, I'd have to have the energy and everything Coach has. He's a great guy, even outside of football. I'm just blessed to have had the opportunity to play for him." Those were traits Arnold and Franks saw in a young Holt. Holt was a leader from a young age, and he also clearly wanted to do well because he respected the game. But he knew he had to work incredibly hard to accomplish greatness, and Arnold said Holt achieved that with "mind over matter" because he wasn't the most athletically or physically gifted kid. "There's a lot of people who have the passion for the game, but there's just a few who stand out at the very top, and Nick is one of those guys," Arnold said. "I know

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