`Do the right thing' included baptism

Former BYU All-Western Athletic Conference and San Francisco 49ers defensive back Tom Holmoe wanted a motto for his team when he was named head football coach at the University of California-Berkeley last January.

"I was talking to my kids about it and they said, `Why don't you just use "Choose the Right" and then you could get them rings?' " he said. He thought going with the exact wording of the popular Primary phrase and the CTR rings was a bit too much, but he chose the related "Do the right thing" as a guiding motto as he undertook the latest step in a standout athletic career.Brother Holmoe, during a recent telephone interview with the Church News, was upbeat and enthusiastic as he talked about his new job and the path that led him to Cal. He apparently benefited many times in his own life by doing the right thing.

Most specifically, he joined the Church in 1988, calling that "the best decision in my life." That statement is from a man whose decisions led him to stardom on the college gridiron, to Super Bowl championships and to the head coaching position at one of the nation's most well-known universities in one of college sport's most prestigious conferences - the Pac 10.

His route to Church membership began in 1978 at BYU, where he was recruited out of Crescenta Valley High School in Southern California. He was a faithful member of another church and didn't immediately feel a desire to change religions.

Nevertheless, he was drawn to the devotionals and forums on campus and "learned about the Church really fast." He said he enjoyed the environment at BYU and had many LDS friends among teammates, coaches, faculty and others.

"They were great missionaries," he related. "And even though I didn't convert at that time, there is no question that they had a special effect on me."

His performance as a three-year starter in the defensive backfield at BYU attracted the attention of the pros and he was drafted in the fourth round by the 49ers in 1983. He moved to Foster City - south of San Francisco on the San Francisco Bay - with his wife, Lori, who he met while hosting BYU football recruits at basketball games where she was a cheerleader.

While he spent seven seasons playing for the 49ers, picking up three Super Bowl rings along the way, he regularly attended LDS Church meetings with his wife. "Those people in the ward were very supportive, but I didn't take it seriously enough," he said. "I was just too consumed with being a professional athlete."

Brother Holmoe blames pride for keeping him, for many years, from doing what he knew was the right thing. Then a young bishop, who was a good friend, "really challenged me to do the right thing in my life," he said. "I stripped away the pride and humbled myself and made the best decision of my life." He was baptized in 1988.

Meanwhile, he continued doing the right thing in sports. He was in a pre-med program at BYU and intended to go to medical school, but his extended professional football career closed that door. Then he turned to athletic administration and intended to enroll in a graduate program at Ohio State University after retiring from the 49ers. But BYU coach LaVell Edwards intervened, asking him to return to BYU as a graduate assistant.

"Going back to BYU really brought me into coaching," he said.

The Cougars hosted No. 1-ranked Miami in the first game Brother Holmoe coached, and knocked off the Hurricanes.

"The bug bit me right there," he said. "I thought, `Coaching is pretty cool.' "

He was tutored by the best as a player at BYU and for the 49ers, and as an assistant coach at BYU, Stanford, California and for the 49ers. Along with Edwards, those tutors have been, among others, former Stanford and 49ers head coach Bill Walsh, former 49ers head coach George Siefert, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Holmgren, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes, and New England Patriots head coach Pete Carroll. Finally, he hooked up as an assistant to Cal head coach Steve Mariucci last year. When Mariucci landed the 49ers' head coaching job, Brother Holmoe took over at Cal.

The Holmoes feel they have been blessed. While Brother Holmoe has changed jobs several times, except for the two years as an assistant at BYU, all the jobs have been in the Bay Area.

"When I joined the Cal staff here last year, we had other assistants coming from all over the country and they were living in a hotel while their families were trying to get packed and get the kids out of school," Brother Holmoe said. But for him, he finished working as an assistant for the 49ers one day, and the next day just went to work at a different place - California - while living in the same house.

Because all but one of his jobs have been in the same, relatively small, geographic region, Brother and Sister Holmoe have lived for the most part in the same community, providing stability in the Church, in schools and with friends for them and their children - Shannon, 13, Daniel, 11, Erik, 9, and Lauren, 3.

As the California head coach, Brother Holmoe revels in the opportunity to work with young student athletes even though the Golden Bears have struggled, winning their first two games this year, but losing their next three. The coach said he always tries to maintain the gospel perspective of what is truly important.

In the Church, he said he has loved serving in many callings, beginning as a Webelos leader when he was a non-member shortly after moving to Foster City in 1983. Now, as a member of the Crystal Springs 2nd Ward, he serves in the San Francisco California Stake mission presidency.

"The position I'm in, it opens a lot of doors to have been a professional athlete and to be a coach now in an area where football is pretty important to people. I have a lot of speaking engagements and I get out a lot. My position in football has opened up some doors that maybe otherwise wouldn't have been opened."

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