President Donald Trump awarded former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a White House ceremony Thursday.
Trump announced the award back in September with Holtz in attendance, calling the coach an “incredible leader” and said Holtz earned the award because of his life, career and charitable work.
The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor the president can award.
“It’s the highest honor or award you could possibly receive and I receive it with mixed emotions,” Holtz told Fox News from the White House just before Thursday’s ceremony. “First of all, I’m humbled. There are many more people far worthy than me I can assure you. Nobody is more appreciative than me.”
Trump said several college coaches wrote letters recommending Holtz for the award. He also referenced Holtz’s wife, Beth, who died in July, calling her a “special” and “great” person.
Holtz, 83, has been an avid supporter of Trump, and the president and has called him a longtime friend.
A White House press release Wednesday, stated that, “America recognizes Lou Holtz as one of the greatest football coaches of all time for his unmatched accomplishments on the gridiron, but he is also a philanthropist, author, and true American patriot.”
Holtz coached 11 years at Notre Dame (1986-96) and led the Irish to their most recent national championship in 1988. He grew up in West Virginia and eastern Ohio and was the first member of his family to enroll in college, according to the White House press release.
At Kent State, Holtz played football, studied history, and joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. For the next 7 years, he honorably served as an Officer in the United States Army Reserves. When asked about his service during an interview with the American Legion, Holtz said, “I was taught at an early age that I had an obligation to serve my country.”
Holtz would have coaching stops at William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina. He also coached the New York Jets in 1976.
At Notre Dame Holtz compiled a record of 100-30-2. He was passed by current coach Brian Kelly last week for second on the school’s all-time coaching wins list.
When the honor was announced in September, Notre Dame spokesman Paul Browne, congratulated Holtz in a statement.
“Lou Holtz is among America’s greatest college football coaches, leading Notre Dame to a national championship in 1988. But his contributions off the field have been equally inspiring, bringing attention and support to his hometown, alma mater, Catholic Charities, the Women’s Care Foundation, the Center for the Homeless in South Bend, and other worthy organizations through his charitable foundation,” the statement said.
“At Notre Dame, he and his late wife, Beth, served as research ambassadors, and the players he molded have added to his legacy through their own contributions through the Lou’s Lads Foundation.”
The announcement comes in the wake of a speech Holtz gave at the Republican National Convention, in which he called Trump “a winner.”
“I used to ask our athletes at Notre Dame, ‘If you did not show up who would miss you and why?'” Holtz, 83, said in his speech. “Can you imagine what would happen to us if President Trump had not shown up in 2016 to run for president? I’m so glad he showed up.”
Holtz, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008, was recently reported to be recovering from COVID-19.
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