Inspiration for iconic coach comes from time spent in East Liverpool

Local News

When Lou Holtz made East Liverpool is home, another coach saw greatness in him

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – On East 5th Street in East Liverpool, inside an old bank building, is the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame. It’s where all of Holtz’s East Liverpool memorabilia is stored.

Funeral Director Frank “Digger” Dawson is an East Liverpool historian and personal friend of Lou Holtz. They met in 1951 at a Baldwin-Wallace football camp.

“We went up there to camp and Lou was standing in the line. I was 15 and he was 13,” Dawson said.

Dawson is quick to point out pictures of a young Lou Holtz who, in fourth grade, moved to East Liverpool from West Virginia after his father entered World War II.

Holtz’s mother was from East Liverpool. He attended St. Aloysius in 1946 and was a freshman in 1950 at East Liverpool High School.

In 1952, Holtz at least had a number on the football team, but he wasn’t much of a player.

“He held for extra points. His senior year he played a little bit and the same at Kent. He broke a collarbone one year – constantly injured,” Dawson said.

When Holtz graduated in 1954, he weighed 125 pounds and was part of an East Liverpool football team considered to be one of the best. His coach was Wade Watts, and it was Watts that created Coach Holtz.

“Wade saw something in him that no one could see, and he told Lou you should go into coaching. Later, Wade said well, I never thought he’d be that successful,” Dawson said.

Digger Dawson leads the way on the Lou Holtz tour, past the house Holtz grew up in at 834 Riverview Street and the corner where Holtz attended high school. First, the old Central High School and what is now part of Kent State.

Holtz would later coach two national championship teams – Arkansas and Notre Dame. And Dawson, well, he sort of saw it coming.

“He had a certain belief and a credibility that you didn’t doubt him,” he said.

Lou Holtz married an East Liverpool girl. She died this past summer. Once Holtz left for college, he never made East Liverpool home again. He returns occasionally and, over the years, has donated money to many of the city’s causes.

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