Over the course of spring camp, BYU fans caught a small glimpse of Coach Holliday’s personality, and it didn’t take long before they became excited.
“I enjoy it,” Holliday said. “I truly enjoy it. I think it’s really interesting. Having been in the SEC, you know, and seeing the intensity of the fanbase and the supportiveness out there, BYU’s fanbase is equal to any fanbase in the South Eastern Conference in my opinion. We carry a national perspective, and that’s exciting. I enjoy it.”
That comparison of BYU’s fans to those found in the SEC is quite the compliment. The Cougar fanbase is just one reason why Coach Holliday has developed a love for BYU.
“You know, the wholesomeness of this experience and trying to win the right way, I really love that part of this experience,” said Coach Holliday with a smile. “It’s refreshing. It’s refreshing and I love that part. When you’ve been to some of the places that I’ve been and experience some of the things that I’ve experienced, being here has been an incredible experience.”
Coach Holliday has seen how college programs place high demands, stress and often negative pressures upon the shoulders of their coaches to win at all costs. It’s a recipe that can create a culture where coaches compromise their principles and values.
“I mean, winning is important, but at what cost and at what sacrifice?” said Holliday. “When you can do what you’re doing and feel good about yourself, and when you lay down at night feeling good about yourself, knowing you did things the right way, what more can you ask? You know, if I'm at, say, this specific school and all we care about is winning a national championship, but sacrifice our morals and principles and everything else just to get there? I mean, what greater value have I achieved? I mean, would you want to be Oregon right now? Would you want to be USC right now? At what price are you willing to pay for that national championship? It’s not a price I want to pay.”
Winning at BYU also means helping young men rise up to become more than just great athletes. The end game is much bigger than a mere sack or scoring a touchdown. Instead, it’s about developing a more holistic and complete athlete. For Coach Holliday, that challenge is far more fulfilling than any on-field accomplishment.
“Just think about this for a second,” Coach Holliday said. “We have a great opportunity to recruit a young person, and when he accepts to come here he’s saying, ‘I know I'm going to get a great education. I know that when I graduate I'm going to get a degree that is important and useful in society. I know that I'm going to be held to a higher standard and I'm willing to accept that challenge. I may not be LDS, but I'm going to accept that challenge of holding myself to a higher standard. Then I'm going to face some of the toughest challenges athletically that I’ve ever faced.’ What more could you ask for as a coach?”
This unique perspective and program philosophy suits Coach Holliday just fine.
“When it’s all said and done and they read my eulogy at my funeral, all they’re going to talk about is winning that national championship,” Coach Holliday said. “What people don’t understand is football doesn’t define me. It just adds to me. What truly defines me is who I am and what kind of a man I have become in the end. That’s the greater and more lasting result.”
This sentiment is why Coach Holliday defends BYU both in word and in deed against those who simply don’t understand the treasures of worth found within the confines of the campus. That was put on display after former Texas Tech receiver and current Denver Bronco Wes Welker made negative comments about BYU to recruit Nick Kurtz on Twitter. Coach Holliday responded with some Tweets of his own, including one saying, “1 National Championship 1 Heisman 2 Outland Trophies Hall of fame Q 2 Super Bowl Winning Q's Top 5 Draft Pick #nowletscompare.”
“BYU allows me as a coach to be all I can be,” said Coach Holliday. “It’s just positive energy from both sides as a coach and as an athlete. What you demand of your players, you have to demand of yourself as a coach first and foremost. So, this is one of the best feelings I’ve experienced as a coach here at BYU, because you sit down and you say, ‘You know, I'm going to live my life in a way that should be lived. To compromise that is not acceptable.’ It’s almost like the old saying, ‘Losing is not an option.’ This is what we are saying here at BYU – ‘Compromise is not an option.’ I'm going to live my life to a certain standard, and I'm going to ask my players to live a certain standard. I'm going to embrace it and in the end when that final bell rings, I can be happy knowing I did things the right way and able to coach at a place where kids can became more than just great athletes.”
Coach Holliday has only been affiliated with BYU for a short amount of time, but it’s almost as though a weary traveler has finally found home after a long journey. It’s a search many successful men often take but most never find.
“What successful person knows everything?” asked Coach Holliday. “The more you learn, the more you grow, and believe me, I’ve enjoyed a lot of my stops along the way. I thought El Paso was a great place and very unique with a different perspective. I mean, a 78-percent Hispanic community, and that was very unique for me. But now, sometimes you just know when you’ve just come home. You just know and feel it in your heart.”
He’s since opened the door, hung up that weathered trench coach and kicked off his shoes to sit by the glowing fires that warm the soul. With a smile on his face, Coach Holliday is at perfect ease – his face visibly brimming with happiness. He feels he’s come home, and that home is BYU.
“That’s how I now feel,” Holliday said with an expression of relief on his face. “Other places were just stops along the way to prepare me for home. That’s just how I feel, having walked this journey. I'm walking into an environment where the Church is looking to embrace African Americans. I'm at a place where my Polynesian roots are accepted and are not looked at any differently. I'm at a place where it’s okay to do the right thing; there’s no pressure to win at all cost. I’m not going to take what this university stands for for granted. I'm not going to take what it stands for for granted. It’s home, and I’ve come home.”
Welcome home Coach Holliday.