The weather was sunny and cold in Hartford, Conn., Friday morning. Most of the 4 inches of snow that fell on the region melted, but temperatures are expected to dip into the low 30s for Pitt’s game against Connecticut Friday night at The Rent (Rentschler Field).
Lots of talk in the Hartford Courant about the shaky job security of the UConn football (Paul Pasqualoni) and basketball (Kevin Ollie) coaches, but over breakfast my eyes were diverted to news about another coach.
Did anyone notice who became interim coach at Florida A&M after Joe Taylor, the winningest coach in the history of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football, resigned this week?
Yes, that Earl Holmes.
Holmes is the former Steelers linebacker, who told coach Bill Cowher — upon Holmes getting picked in the fourth round in 1996 — that he had just selected the best linebacker in the draft.
I spent a lot of time covering the Steelers in those days and always enjoyed talking to Holmes, a tough, smart, passionate guy who never got the fullest respect from his coaches. It’s ironic that Holmes has become a head coach (OK, interim) before some of those coaches who used to criticize him.
Holmes, one of the greatest linebackers in Florida A&M history, was the school’s defensive coordinator before being promoted Thursday.
Over the years, I have gotten a lot of mileage from telling and re-telling the story of Holmes’ passion spilling into the Steelers locker room during a fight with running back Richard Huntley at Three Rivers Stadium after a spring practice in 2000.
When I told the story to the kids at Mars Middle School last month, they listened more intently than when I told them the importance of a good vocabulary.
I’ll tell it again (the abridged version):
In the midst of a non-contact drill, Huntley didn’t like how Holmes pushed him during a run play. A few shoves and harsh words were exchanged and Huntley threw the football at Holmes, but real trouble erupted later in the locker room when Earl burst inside looking for Richard.
I was interviewing Huntley with two other reporters when Earl shoved me aside (I was uninjured) and started shouting and flailing away at his teammate. Running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala got a black eye trying to play peace-maker and later had the quote of the year: “It was like the WWF. I just wish it was fake like the WWF.”
At one point, linebacker Jason Gildon, now an assistant coach at Seneca Valley, picked up a chair and start swinging it before Cowher arrived to defuse the situation. No one was fined, and other than poor Fu, no one was injured.
But I’ll never forget offensive tackle Shar Pourdanash looking at me and saying, “You’re not going to write that, are you?”
Sorry, Shar. This makes twice.