Mike Holmgren - A Teacher And Coach
A Teacher and Coach
As a teenager in San Francisco, Holmgren was a star athlete at Lincoln High School. He was an all-city quarterback, president of his class, and, during his senior year, the best football player in the state of California. Holmgren's father was a real-estate sales person and a former semipro football player.
Holmgren attended the University of Southern California from 1966 to 1970. At the school, he played football and dreamed of a career as a quarterback, but injuries prevented him from having more than a backup role with the Trojans. In 1970, he was an eighth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, and then played briefly with the New York Jets. He quickly realized that he did not have a future as a player, so he became certified as a teacher and married his wife Kathy, whom he had known since he was 13 years old.
In 1971, Holmgren taught history and coached football at his alma mater, Lincoln High School, then taught and coached at Sacred Heart, a private high school in
San Francisco, from 1972-75. He taught history, mechanical drawing, and economics, and coached the football team. Although Holmgren eventually moved entirely into coaching, he retained the belief that teaching was the foundation of all coaching, and even as an NFL coach, he continued to think of himself as a teacher who just happened to be a coach. Holmgren's history keeps him grounded. He remarked to Dan Daley of the Washington Times, "[Being a high school coach before becoming an NFL coach] teaches you to appreciate a little more the things that are available on this level. When you've had to count jocks or worry about some little freshman forgetting his mouthpiece, when you've had to ride on buses … it just makes you more grateful for what we have here in the NFL."
In 1975, Holmgren moved on to teach and coach at Oak Grove, a school in the San Diego area, before taking a leave of absence in 1980 to work as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at San Francisco State University. His family of six was so poor that they lived in a one-room apartment. This poverty ended when Holmgren became quarterbacks coach at Brigham Young University from 1982 to 1985.
In 1986, Holmgren moved on to become quarterbacks coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Bill Walsh, who hired him, told Paul Attner in the Sporting News that he was aware that Holmgren's experience as a coach was limited. However, Walsh noted, "He had an outstanding football mind, he had excellent communication skills, he had a natural easy-going but assertive personality, and he proved to be a hands-on guy who was an excellent teacher. The consummate coach."
Holmgren was quarterbacks coach for the 49ers from 1986 to 1988, and offensive coordinator from 1989 to 1991. During his tenure, San Francisco won the Super Bowl in 1989 and 1990. In 1990, Holmgren received head coaching offers from both the New York Jets and the St. Louis Cardinals. He and his wife, who are both deeply religious, felt that these jobs were simply not right. "We were convinced God had a plan for our lives," Kathy Holmgren told Attner. They decided to wait and see what else came along.