Like many others who had watched Notre Dame play on television or heard about its legendary football program, South Carolina native Germaine Holden took a leap of faith when he decided to enroll at the university in South Bend, Ind.. A four year defensive starter for the Irish, Holden thrived under head coach Lou Holtz and got an education that served him well later in life. He currently splits his time between Denver, Colorado and Australia and has three sons: Baer, Tyger and Wulf.
Q: Being from Anderson, S.C., was Notre Dame always a viable recruiting open for you?
A: “I didn’t have any idea where Notre Dame was. I had heard of it and seen the football team on television but I didn’t follow them and I was not a lifelong fan. Coming from the Southeast you didn’t hear too much about Notre Dame. My first real exposure to the university came when Tony Rice went there, as he is from a town that is about 30 minutes away from me (Greenwood, S.C.). Then when Jeff Burris (Rock Hill, S.C.) committed to Notre Dame I decided I should take a closer look. During my school search, I took five official visits. I was at Miami during Thanksgiving weekend of 1990. I was at Notre Dame the following weekend. Then in mid-January I went to UCLA, Nebraska, and then finally to South Carolina. I saved my trip to South Carolina until the end because when you live in South Carolina that is the last chance for your parents to get courted and doted on from the local school. I had no intention of going to South Carolina unless they completely blew my mind.”
“Irv Smith and Nick Smith were my hosts during my official visit to Notre Dame. I had made an unofficial visit to ND the summer before, so I already had met a bunch of the guys which made my official visit seemed very natural, very comfortable.”
“What was the deciding factor that led me to choose Notre Dame? My parents did a great job in raising me, and they trusted me to make the right choice so they left the decision 100 percent up to me. They supported me and would give me advice if I asked, but they wanted me to be the decision-maker. I had the good fortune of having a brother who was four years ahead of me in school, who had been recruited to play college football, and I had already gone through the process with him. I got to tag along on his trips and had a chance to observe his journey, which helped me a lot with mine. My brother ended up playing football at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.
“I saw the benefits and the burdens that came with going to school so close to home. With him being so close, we could invade his life whenever we wanted to. Geographically it was impossible for him to gain his independence. He didn’t have to cut the cord and my parents didn’t have to either. He could come home on weekends and do his laundry and have Sunday dinner and I saw how that was not a beneficial thing for him. From his experience I realized that I did not want to be close to home. I wanted people to have to plan to come visit me and not just drop in. Four of the five schools that I took official visits to were not close to where I am from.”
“During the process you have to come up with some sort of criteria to base your decision on, and these were mine. One, I did not want to be close to home. Two, I did not want to play on turf. Three, I did not want to be redshirted my freshman year. Four, I did not want to go to a school that was in a big city because I was not from a big city and they intimidated me. Five, I didn’t want to go to a big school.
I wanted to go to a small school in a small town where I could get a good education and play football for a good program.”
“So in the end what I wanted was a little school with a big name, and that was Notre Dame. The big drawback was the weather. It was by far my worst visit. There was this awful ethanol smell in the air all weekend. It was the least “fun” of any of my recruiting trips, but the guys were very cool. Derek Brown, a tight end at Notre Dame, sat me down and said to me, “Look, listen man. Here’s the deal. You can go to Miami if you want to, and if you do you’ll probably have a blast, and when we play you we will beat you. You can go to Miami and you can kick it for four years. Or, you can come to school here, win a lot, be a part of a great program, graduate with a degree from Notre Dame and kick it for the rest of your life.’ That pretty much sealed the deal for me.”
Q: Was that your biggest challenge during your time at Notre Dame?
A: “Truthfully, It was a combination of the weather and the academic rigors. Honestly I don’t think I was quite prepared from an academic perspective with how tough it was. I was thrown for a loop. Just being around so many extremely smart people who had been at the top of their classes in their respective high schools across the nation and now I’m sitting next to them in classes. I might have been in class with them before, but I was not peers with them before. Academically, I felt a tad bit overwhelmed. The characteristics that athletes have which make them successful in sports, also make them successful in school and life. Academic life at Notre Dame was a microcosm of the business culture of the United States. If you can make it through your studies at Notre Dame, you can make it anywhere. You just learn to adapt. That’s what all of us did at ND. We got through it. I wasn’t an All-American or a first round draft pick. I had many frustrating moments when I wanted to pack up my stuff and go home, but I would not change one moment of my time at Notre Dame. It made me who I am today.”
Q: What is your favorite Notre Dame football memory?
A. “Probably when I set the bench press record, and then went on to hold it for 15 years. I believe I pressed 520 or 530 pounds.”
“Having my teammates around me is what I enjoyed most about my time at Notre Dame. It was a fraternity, a brotherhood, at a school that does not have fraternities or sororities. The collective experience of being around such a great group of guys and to know that I was not going through it by myself was such a huge benefit. We were in it together and that is what it was all about. One team. One mission. That is really what I hold so dear of my time at ND.”
Q: What was your NFL experience like?
A: “I played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for a short time. They paid me, I was on their roster, but I did not enjoy it. The camaraderie was gone. And that was the door that closed on my athletic career. The experience just soured me on the game that I had loved for so long. I am a great fan of the NFL and am thankful that some of my teammates went on and were successful. It was a big part of many of my
teammates’ lives, but it didn’t play a big part in mine.”
Q: Where did life take you after football?
A: “My first job (after football) was for an independent living facility for at risk youth in Anderson, S.C. Then I got hired at Notre Dame as an academic counselor in their academic services department which was very enjoyable, but the money was not great. At the time I was married and had two children and needed something that would better take care of my family. One of my teammates, Tracy Graham, who was like a brother to me, had started a business right out of college (Internet Services Management Group) and was looking to start a second one (GramTel). He asked me if I would be interested in partnering with him and I accepted. That was my introduction to business. I worked for Tracy from 2000 to 2004 and then was offered a job in Denver, Colo., for Republic Financial Corporation (2004 to 2007). Then in May of 2007 I was offered a job with GMT Global Republic Aviation and worked there from 2007-2011. While I was at GMT I also earned my MBA from the University of Denver.”
“In May of 2011 I left GMT and joined RLG International, which is based in Vancouver, Canada. They are predominately a consulting company that trains executives how to become more effective and productive leaders, and my role is that of a performance coach. We work with companies throughout the world to create an alignment between the corporate expectations and the realities of the front line. What is expected from upper management and what is heard by the employees on the front line is often quite different. We connect the front line employees with the bottom line results. Transocean is my current client. They are the largest owner of offshore drilling rigs. I work out on the oil rigs with the managers teaching them how to express their technical goals to their employees. Often times these managers excel at the technical aspects of the job but need help with the managerial side. It’s my role to bridge that gap.”
Q: What advice do you have for current college athletes?
A: “Take advantage of the platform that they have at their respective universities. The world is literally at your fingertips. It is limitless what they have access to if they only reach out for it. Learn how to ask for help and accept it. We as athletes are used to people coming to us to ask for things, but we never learn how to reach out to others for help until we absolutely have to. Learning how to ask others for help, how to reach out and really take advantage of what the world has to offer us is very important.
Many athletes never learn how to do that until they are out of school and on their own. They should learn that skill while they are still in school and have available resources. Learn to humble yourself and reach out and ask others for help.”
Q: What is your favorite Lou Holtz memory?
A: “This is the one that is indelibly etched in my mind. I had the luxury of starting six games my freshman year because one of my teammates got hurt. We were in practice one day and I blew my assignment and Coach Holtz stopped practice. He called everybody around … coaches, players, trainers, in a circle around me and had me in the middle with him. He called me to task (something that he did to his players early and often, especially if he believed that you had potential. He wanted to build a bridge between your potential and your future.) He told me to tell everyone around me why I was so damn special. ‘We’ve got ten other guys out here doing what they are supposed to be doing and here you are doing what you wanted to do and not what you were supposed to do. Why is that?’”
“He kicked me out of practice and I had to sit there on the sidelines and watch the rest of practice. He called me back out on the field to run sprints at the end of practice and then at the end as I was walking off the field he called me over to him. He said, ‘You understand why I did what I did, right?’ And I said, ‘I think so.’ And he said, ‘Look, I cannot emphasize to you enough to do the little things the right way. Not some of the time but all of the time.’ He reached up and patted my head … and then patted me on the butt and said, ‘You’re doing a great job, keep up the good work. We love you and we need you.’ If I could turn my children over to Lou when they turn 17 or 18 years old I would. There is no one I’d rather turn them over to than someone like him.”
I’d like to give a big thank you to Germaine for stopping by the blog. It was an absolute pleasure to walk through his journey with him. Stay tuned for many more great stories in the “Where are they now?” series!