“There is no other option.” Those five words. That’s it. Just five. That’s all he said to me. With a couple smiles inserted before and after. Five words said it all. No more. No less. Nothing else needed to be said.

I heard those five words while on a recent business trip. They were spoken by a legendary coach imagesmost American’s admire. I spotted him when I arrived at my gate at the South Bend Regional Airport. We were both early. Just a few of us in the waiting area. I was talking to my wife Linda on the phone. What a great blog I could write with a few quotes from the master of quotes. Yet I was debating with myself as I whispered to her on the phone. Leave him alone or go over and start talking to him? Grab some nuggets of gold from one of the greatest football coaches of recent history or mind my own business?

All of a sudden it was too late. Like flies on spilled honey, everyone realized his presence and gathered around Coach Lou Holtz. They were asking for their pictures to be taken with him. They had him autograph shirts, pieces of paper and more. They huddled around him. They stood in line. It was the weekend of the Notre Dame inter-squad Blue-Gold Spring football game. High school football recruits. Their coaches. Fighting Irish fans. Nearly everyone in the gate area wanted a piece of this famous coach and now ESPN analyst. After all, Notre Dame is where Coach Lou Holtz left one of his most memorable football legacies from 1986 -1996. But, at this point, I felt sorry for the 79 year old football icon.


Coach Holtz at South Bend, IN airport

I wanted to chat with Coach Holtz because I’ve always admired his leadership, faith, and character. I’ve often quoted him. But I quickly realized that it was more about me than it was about him. I figured if it was meant to be, I might be seated next to him on our small commuter jet to Atlanta. Lou was in 2A, I was 5A. Maybe when we get off in Atlanta. But I determined I wasn’t going to be like one of “them” and pounce on him, wear him out and ask for a picture or an autograph.

Soon we were getting back off the plane. Still in South Bend. A mechanical issue, they said. Another plane was to take us to Atlanta. So I was back in line waiting to see if I could rebook to a later flight from Atlanta to Fort Myers. On my phone, checking the later flights on my Delta app, I happened to turn around. There he was in line, 30 inches behind me. The celebrity. The most sought after man in the entire airport. The legendary Coach Lou Holtz.


Fans posing with Coach Holtz


He smiled. I smiled. I asked only one question in a pastoral-caring kind of way. How do you put up with the constant barrage of requests for autographs and pictures? And that’s when he responded with the five words that said it all. “There is no other option.” I smiled and told him, “You are much more gracious than I am. I would be very annoyed by now.”  He smiled.

I’ve read and used a lot of quotes from Lou Holtz. One comes to mind after watching him graciously respond to dozens and dozens of strangers over a two to three hour period: “Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.” And another: “I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” For Coach Lou, there is no other option.

And for me, those five words have haunted me, convicted me, inspired me and shaped my behavior over the past couple weeks. As a leader, pastor, husband, and follower of Jesus. Some things I need to do just because: “There is no other option.” Being weary, stressed, or busy isn’t a legitimate excuse for impatience or harshness with others. Because of who I am and whose I am, “There is no other option.” Thank you Coach Holtz for your kind smile. And, for those five words.

QUESTION: What do those five words speak to you about your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.


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