So it's not surprising that there's a long, winding trail of active coaches that have either played for or worked with the 67-year-old.
"At one time, I think I had over 60 former graduate assistants that were coaching major college or else in the NFL," Holtz said. "So, yeah, very seldom do I run into a staff that somebody hasn't coached for me."
But the list might be exceptionally -- and uniquely -- long at Arkansas, where Holtz has ties to six of the Hogs' 10 coaches.
The most well-known, of course, is Houston Nutt, who played for Holtz at Arkansas in 1977 before transferring to Oklahoma State. Nutt returned to the Razorbacks in 1983 and worked under Holtz as a graduate assistant.
In addition, receivers coach James Shibest played for Holtz at Arkansas in 1983, while running backs coach Danny Nutt redshirted that season. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack was a part-time assistant under Holtz from 1981-82. Defensive backs coach Bobby Allen was a graduate assistant at Minnesota in 1985 and offensive line coach Mike Markuson held the same title at Notre Dame in 1989.
"We all have respect for him," said Markuson, whose film room assistant, Les Boyum, also worked under Holtz at Minnesota. "He's done a great job wherever he's been. He's a great football coach and we all learned a lot of football from him."
Markuson said Holtz was a remarkable teacher who stressed a hands-on approach to coaching. Wommack remembered Holtz as a tireless worker that pushed his staff to "dot every 'I' and cross every 'T.'"
"He's just a winner when you can go to as many places he has been," Wommack aid. "He took Minnesota when they were at the bottom of the barrel and took them to their first bowl in forever. He's going to take an opponent and is going to dissect that opponent and he's going to find the weakness and he's going to exploit it."
Holtz has done that successfully throughout his career, guiding six programs (William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina) to bowl games. In the process, he has become the third-winningest active coach and eighth all-time in Division I.
Nutt said he had plenty of respect for Holtz, even though he transferred after playing his sophomore season at Arkansas. He said the feeling must've been mutual because Holtz welcomed him back a few years later.
"I have a very good relationship with coach Holtz, learned so much and played for him," Nutt said. "I came back from Oklahoma State to be a grad assistant for coach Holtz. He wouldn't have hired me back if there wasn't a relationship there.
"I was really thankful for that and it really helped me in my career."
Holtz also helped Allen, Markuson and Wommack advance in coaching.
Allen's one-year stint at Minnesota led to a full-time job as Drake's defensive coordinator in 1986. Wommack's two years as a part-time assistant helped him land a graduate assistant post at Missouri. Markuson worked his last graduate assistant job at Notre Dame in 1989, stepping into his first full-time spot as Austin Peay's offensive line coach the next season.
"It always gives you a great deal of satisfaction to see people that you were part of when they were getting into the coaching profession," Holtz said. "(South Carolina defensive backs coach) Ron Cooper was a GA for me at Minnesota.
"It just goes on and on. But it's just great to see young people progress."
Six Degrees of Lou Holtz
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