"Rest easy LCDR Holovak, we have the watch!"
We were blessed to know him
By RICHARD JUSTICE
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
He was a coal miner's son, the youngest of five born to Czechoslovakian immigrants. From those humble beginnings, Mike Holovak went on to live out a uniquely American story.
He skippered a PT boat, survived malaria and lost a brother in World War II. He once counted President Kennedy among his many friends.
He played for Frank Leahy and George Halas, drafted Hall of Famers Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews and was the architect of Oilers teams that made seven consecutive playoff appearances.
He once played in a high school game in which Vince Lombardi was the opposing coach.
Mike Holovak died at 88 on Sunday, leaving behind hundreds of friends that admired him for his decency and loyalty and humor. His was a wonderful life in every sense of the word.
He was a few months from his 70th birthday and preparing for retirement in 1989 when Bud Adams asked him to become general manager of the Oilers. Adams didn't make many better decisions.
Holovak was a scout at heart and was never happier than those days he would spend in a darkened room attempting to evaluate who could play and who couldn't. He once joked that he hoped to die while watching film.
"He worked most of his NFL career in obscurity, and that's the way he liked it," said Titans CEO Steve Underwood, who worked in the organization 19 years with Holovak. "He had no desire to have his ego massaged."
Now a word about those catnaps. He took them frequently. When he was general manager of the Oilers, some assumed it meant the old man was starting to slip.
He wasn't. He'd become so accustomed to sleeping two or three hours at a time while on that PT boat that his sleep patterns were ruined forever.
That's why he might have watched more hours of tape between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. than anyone in NFL history.
Respect around the NFLTo understand how he was viewed by his peers, one had only to see the reception he got at NFL meetings. Al Davis admired him in a way he didn't admire many people in football.
Lamar Hunt and Ralph Wilson loved him, too. Holovak was on the ground floor of building the AFL, and those guys never forgot his contributions as coach and general manager of the Patriots.
According to the College Football Hall of Fame, Leahy found Holovak almost by accident. He had gone to watch Lombardi coach a high school team and came upon a player that would be one of the best in Boston College history.
It was during his Boston years that he met the young senator. They forged a friendship that lasted until the end of JFK's life.
Adams never had a more loyal employee. Holovak once confided that he never had asked for a raise, and he took every bullet for the organization's mistakes, deserved or not.
He had a toughness about him that endured until late in life. He was a devoted runner and would be seen at the practice facility pounding out the miles in the heat of the day.
Not one to criticizeOn his KTRH talk show, he would defer to his host on questions that might mean criticizing someone. That simply was a game he was unwilling to play.
He retired to Florida in 1999, to play poker and take his daily power walks. Teams never stopped sending him video and asking him to evaluate a player.
He had tough times along the way. A high school-aged daughter died in a car accident. Holovak suffered for years after that, once telling a reporter that he owed the Raiders and 49ers apologies for being so smothered by grief he was unable to work.
His real legacy won't be that he was the greatest executive or the most successful coach or any of that stuff. He was inducted into so many halls of fame over the years that the names and places begin to blur.
That's small stuff compared to what Mike Holovak was to the people who knew him best. They remembered him as a good friend, relentless worker and for having a heart bigger than almost anyone.
Those people are mourning his passing, but celebrating the fact they were lucky enough to know him. They know they were blessed.
Michael J. Holovak, legendary football coach for BC, Pats; was also ace PT skipper in WWII
Michael J. “Mike” Holovak of Wimauma, Fla., legendary football coach for Boston College and the Boston Patriots [team stats], died yesterday from complications of pneumonia at Life Path Hospice in Ruskin, Fla. He was 88.
Mr. Holovak was born and raised in Lansford, Pa.
During high school he won an athletic scholarship to Seton Hall Prep School in New Jersey. He went on to play football for Boston College, where he became starting fullback on the Eagles’ undefeated 1941 Sugar Bowl champion team.
As a senior in 1942, Mr. Holovak was an All-America selection. In that season’s Orange Bowl game against Alabama, Mr. Holovak scored three touchdowns and averaged 15.8 yards every time he touched the ball - a rushing record that has stood for more than six decades.
Following graduation from Boston College in 1943, Mr. Holovak enlisted in the Navy and served as skipper of a PT boat operating in the South Pacific war zone.
“He rarely spoke of it, but he was so proud of that service to his country,” said his widow, Pauline Scudder Holovak. His boat was credited with sinking nine Japanese ships and Mr. Holovak retired from the Navy as a lieutenant commander.
After the war, he played professional football for the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams before beginning his coaching career as freshman football coach at Boston College in 1949. In the two years that he held that post, his teams didn’t lose a single game.
He was named head coach at Boston College in 1951 where he remained for nine seasons. In 1960, he was appointed the first director of player personnel for the newly founded Boston Patriots and was named the team’s second head coach during the 1961 season. In 1964, under his coaching, the Patriots reached the American Football League championship game where they lost to the San Diego Chargers.
“Mike was a mentor, a coach, and above all, a consummate gentleman,” said Gino Cappelletti, one of the Patriots’ all-time leading pass receivers and scorers. “ . . . His contributions as coach and general manager in the critical early years of the Patriots’ franchise were monumental.”
Mr. Holovak also coached and held administrative positions with the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets [team stats]. Later in his career, he served as vice president for player personnel and general manager of the NFL’s Houston Oilers and worked for the Oilers, now the Tennessee Titans [team stats], in various front office positions until his retirement from football in 1998. He remained a consultant and scout for the Titans until shortly before his death.
“Mike was the quintessential ‘football guy,’ ” said K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr., founder, owner and president of the Tennessee Titans franchise and a long-time friend of Mr. Holovak. “He had such a passion and knowledge of the game. It is rare when you see a person excel in all three areas of the sport: a great player in college, a successful coach and great talent evaluator, but Mike was one of the special people.”
Mr. Holovak was a member of the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame, the Boston College Varsity Club Hall of Fame, the Tennesse Titans Hall of Fame and the Seton Hall Prep Hall of Fame.
Mr. Holovak is survived by his wife, Pauline Scudder; two daughters, Michele Harrison of Gloucester and Cindy Oatess of South Tampa, Fla.; and three grandchildren.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Feb. 9 at St. Ignatius Church, Boston College.