IN THEIR WORDS ...
``Mike was just
dominant in high school,''
``Well, I still have a picture on my wall and it's Plunkett, myself and Mike sitting side-by-side. And I keep saying to myself, `Whatever happened to those guys?'
``I could be walking with my two children down the street and Mike would come along with some of his
football buddies and they would stop and say hi and he would lean down and say hi to our two children,'' says Dorothy Barr, a family friend. ``And you know, I always thought, `Gee, he's a great player and you'd think that he might think, `Well, I don't have to talk to this lady.' But he always did.
``And when we were at the football game he'd always come up and say hi to us afterward.''
``I was talking to my daughter, who is 41, and I asked her what she remembers about Mike,'' says Gordon Bostrom, a family friend. ``And she remembered him taking her and her sisters trick-or-treating. He was a big man on campus in high school. But even so, it never seemed to affect him.''
``Mike is very tender on the inside,'' says Holmgren's sister, Calla. ``Kind of a marshmallow on the inside. HeÕs certainly that way with his four girls. He reminds me of Dad in that way.''
``We were not these wild, crazy guys with tattoos and earrings,'' says Fred Khasigian, Holmgren's teammate and freshman roommate at USC. ``We weren't like that AT ALL. We were actually pretty sedate.
``But I could tell one dirty story. Mike was so sought-after and hounded, he didn't have time to study his first semester. He got four Fs and a D. I always kid him about that. He did fine after that.''
``While we were in the Sigma Chi fraternity, we had a couple of young guys walk up and announce they wanted to join,'' Skip Farina says. ``They said the baseball coach had sent them over. Turned out to be Bobby Valentine and Bill Buckner.
``And Tom Selleck was a member of the fraternity a
couple years ahead of us. Ironically, Tom was a guy who went there to play basketball and didn't do very well. Things worked out OK for him, too.''
``When we'd bring in pledges to the fraternity we'd give them nicknames,'' Farina says. ``Mike was very good at picking out characteristics. There were a couple of us that were picking on one guy because he had very
curly hair and we'd call him Kink-head.
``And ultimately we shortened it from Kink-head to Kinko. His senior year, he went out and bought two copy machines, put them out in front of the school book store and he now owns Kinko's copy houses.''
``At SC, one of
the perks was being able to get jobs in
little boutique on Sunset Boulevard.
``The photographer was Roddy McDowall, and Mike posed with Mae West for some photographs for Life
Magazine that never made it into the magazine.
``But here's Mike, who is maybe seven inches taller than I am, in a rented tuxedo, with me waiting for Mae West to drive up in her limousine. She drove up and we both got into the back of the limousine and talked to Mae West for about 10 minutes. It was a great experience. Sadly, somewhere those photographs exist.''
``I don't know how the hell he got this job - I mean, he's very good, but you would have never, ever dreamed this in a million years,'' says Steve Barulich, a former student and star linebacker at Sacred Heart, where Holmgren ran the defense in the early 1970s. ``I don't think he had gone to any coaching schools or anything else. He knew people very well. He could get a lot out of the people he taught or coached.
``I remember getting into a fight in a game. I remember he picked me up by the shoulder pads, with one arm, and I was face-to-face with him. And he didn't even have to say anything. His face would just turn completely red and then you'd know he was going to explode. Then he'd walk away and he'd look very calm.''
``We were playing
the No. 1 team in the area and we were just playing the game of our lives,''
says Steve Ellison, who hired Holmgren at
``And he smashes his fist through this blackboard. It got everyone's attention - we just were all startled. Except he didn't know there was a brick wall behind this blackboard. So we're coming out and the kids are already on the field and I hear this scream and I turn around and he says, `I think I broke my hand.' ''
``I remember Mike's dad telling the story of the time he was coming home with a man who was his neighbor, and this man started complaining about the struggles that go along with having a family,'' says Bryan Leech, who served as the Holmgrens' pastor in the 1960s. ``When they got to the man's house, the man didn't have those problems any more because the house was aflame and his entire family had been killed. And I remember Link saying how it made him so thankful that he had his family and that they were safe.''
``I remember the
championship game we played at Kezar Stadium,'' says
Isaac Reams, a former halfback and cornerback at
``But that particular day, Mike comes over to me after the first series and he says, `Isaac, get your defense together. This is going to be a defensive struggle.' And I moved on it.
``He was used to seeing me do that, saw it wasn't being done, knew the situation that we were in as a team and he rose to the occasion of directing the people who were used to doing stuff like that. He truly understood the game moreso than we all did.''
``Once a week during the summer, Mike Holmgren's dad had the football bag and maybe a kicking tee and we'd all go out to the Polo Fields and we'd run some plays,'' says Reams, who went on to become a genetic counselor for an organization that fights sickle-cell anemia. ``I've since become involved in working with kids during the off-season because of the example that Mr. Holmgren set.
``Now, he didn't do this consciously. He wasn't trying to mentor me or be a role model. Our interaction wasn't individual. It wasn't consistent. But he was visible. He was there. You knew he cared. You knew he was concerned. And you felt welcomed.''
``That was great when Mike went to dinner with Paul Allen and the entire menu was in French,'' says Dick Valois, Holmgren's old position coach in high school. ``He said, `I didn't understand anything they said, but it tasted really good.'
``That's Mike. There's no phoniness about him. He's not going to say, `Oh, the embellishments of the dinner were magnificent and every course was announced in French and it just gave you that romantic feeling there.'
``He just said, `Yeah, the food was really good and they announced it in French. I didn't know what the hell they were talking about.'
``It was the real deal, that's what I mean.''
``He told me a
couple times when he went to San Francisco State, you know, geez,
he has all those daughters and they were young and his wife of course was a
nurse,'' says San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who played for Holmgren at Oak Grove High
School. ``They moved to
flipping hot dogs on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. to make money for
``What happens with a lot of guys is that they get into teaching and coaching in high school, then it's three or four years down the road, they've got a couple children and they're making pretty decent money. And then a small college job comes available and they want it, but then the reality hits right into their face, that their salary is going to be cut and they've got to move and they could be fired after a year.
``So they end up staying in the comfort of their high school teaching and coaching job.''