MIAMI — After 32 years in the league, 49ers outside linebackers coach and run game specialist Johnny Holland admits he still gets butterflies before games.
The venerable coach entered the league in 1987 as a linebacker the Packers took in the second round. He amassed 100 tackles in five consecutive seasons in Green Bay earning the nickname "Mr. Everywhere." After a seven-year career, Holland made the transition to coaching, where he was part of the Packers staff that won Super Bowl XXXI.
Even at this point in his career as a coach, games still get Holland’s nerves going.
“Oh, no doubt,” Holland told NBC Sports Bay Area with a little laugh. “Before every game. I get nervous before a preseason game. It never ends. I don’t have to play and still get nervous but that’s what it’s all about. You never know, and that’s what makes it fun.”
The journey back to the Super Bowl for Holland has been 23 years long but he knew that John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan had something special brewing.
“The 0-9 start of a season, a 4-12 season, and now you’re in the Super Bowl,” Holland said. “We always talk about last year coaching in the Senior Bowl in Mobile for going 4-12 and now we’re here in Miami coaching the Super Bowl. It says a lot about guys from top to bottom with John and Kyle and the culture of our team. It’s awesome.”
After two difficult seasons, Holland knew that eventually, the 49ers would see success. He could tell how unique the locker room was, how close and supportive the players were of each other.
“We knew it was going to be something special after the first year. That first year after going 0-9 we knew it was different here. Watching practice here at 0-9 is no different than watching it now. Guys practice and play with energy, they kept the confidence and stayed with the plan.”
The coaching staff has tried to keep the schedule the same for the players all week. With all of the extra media responsibilities that come during the week before the Super Bowl, they prepared as if the game was last Sunday.
Holland believes that having the game installation and preparation done a week early will help reduce stress for the players but nerves are a natural part of the game.
“If you’re relaxing and it’s no big deal, it’s probably not worth playing the game,” Holland said. “I’m sure everybody gets nervous. They say they don’t, but guys get nervous for sure.”
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).
Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.