The following column was sent by Lou Holtz, head football coach at the University of South Carolina, to Bishop Robert J. Baker in mid-October of 2000. At that time, the USC Gamecocks were finally enjoying some success following an 0-11 record the previous season. Bishop Baker used the following insights from Holtz on football, faith and life in his confirmation homilies over the past year. Both Holtz and Tommy Bowden, head football coach of the Clemson Tigers, sent the bishop autographed footballs which he used to illustrate his homilies.
By LOU HOLTZ
Faith may be the most important ingredient that we possess in order to achieve tranquillity in our lives. While our football season has a long ways to go before we can declare it a success, the fact remains that we have surprised an awful lot of people this year. I have been asked countless times by the news media how did this positive transformation of our football team occur in such a short period of time. I can only answer by faith.
To me, faith is believing when you have no proof. People will often say, “Show me the proof, and I will believe.” My answer is when you want proof that is not faith. That is fact. Last season was a total disaster for me personally and professionally, but I can honestly say that I never lost my faith in God or in our future.
Even though our schedule will rank as one of the five toughest in the country at the end of this season, I still held faith that we could be a competitive team in the year 2000. I honestly can’t give you factual reasons why I felt this except by faith alone.
I credit the nuns and priests who have influenced my thinking during my formative years at St. Aloysius in East Liverpool, Ohio, for this attitude. It never ceases to amaze me how people tend to go through their life without faith. To me, you either have faith, or quite often, you will be filled with despair.
We have a chapel service on Friday nights before our games. It is voluntary, and yet, 90 percent of our players attend. We also be have a coaches’ Bible study at 7 a.m. every Monday morning. While this is also voluntary, I’m impressed with the number of coaches that show up weekly. Our Bible study is conducted by Adrian Dupree, who may be the strongest Christian I have ever encountered. He has a philosophy that he will not talk to a stranger for longer than five minutes without expressing his belief in Jesus Christ. His sessions on Monday morning never fail to inspire me.
After the game on Saturday, I’m always worn out, and Sunday is an exceptionally long day as we attempt to put the game plan together for the following week. On Monday morning, I’m usually filled with negative thoughts and question how we can possibly win a game. After listening to him, my attitude changes completely as I have come to realize, like so many other people, that faith is critical in every phase of our life.
Adrian told us a story the other day in Bible study that I would like to share with you. It occurred during the war when two friends were in a foxhole, and a hand grenade landed between them. Jeff dove on the hand grenade and sacrificed his life in order to save David. David was so moved by this unselfish act of heroism that when he returned home, he visited Jeff’s father. Jeff was an only child and his father idolized him. He also was a very wealthy individual with one of the finest art collections in the country. In order to show his appreciation to Jeff’s father, David painted a picture of Jeff. David wasn’t a very talented artist, and the picture wasn’t particularly good, but the father cherished it. As a matter of fact, when he received the portrait of his son, Jeff, from David, he placed it above the mantle for all to see.
Years later, Jeff’s father passed away, and they had an art auction of his possessions. The first painting that was auctioned off was the picture of Jeff painted by David. The auctioneer started off with the bidding at $500, but nobody even placed a bid. The auctioneer went as low as $200, and still he had no takers. Finally, David spoke up and said, “I have only $80 in my pocket, but I will bid that for the picture of Jeff.” David went on to say, “I am no art collector, and I only came here in order to pay my respects to Jeff’s father.” David then went on to explain why he painted a picture of Jeff and relayed the story of Jeff’s sacrificing his life so that David my live. After he explained the situation, the auctioneer then opened up the bidding once again, but just like previously, no one bid on the picture except David. The auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice, gone for $80.” Once he had done this, he slammed his gavel and said, “The auction is now closed.” The numerous art collectors who had gathered anxiously in anticipation of purchasing the exceptionally valuable works of art clamored and said, “But you haven’t auctioned off any of the paintings.” The auctioneer replied and said, “Jeff’s father’s explicit wishes were whoever possesses his son, receives everything.”
I think this is also true in our life. Whoever possesses God’s son Jesus Christ has everything.
I, like so many other people, worry needlessly. As I mature, I now see that the only thing worth losing sleep over is our salvation. Nothing else in our life is really relevant.