July 18, 2007

Unfulfilled dream brings Brohm back

Big East Media Day Photo Gallery | Competition fuels West Virginia duo | Media Day Notebook

NEWPORT, R.I. Before he had a face-to-face meeting with Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm already knew they were on the same wavelength.

That became apparent when Brohm got his first phone call from his new coach.

"As Coach Kragthorpe called me, I was actually on the Internet typing his name in and checking out as much as I could on him," the Heisman Trophy candidate said Tuesday during the Big East Media Day at the Hotel Viking.

Brohm apparently liked what Kragthorpe had to say.

Brohm, a Louisville resident, had pretty much made up his mind to return for his senior season until former coach Bobby Petrino accepted the Atlanta Falcons' head coaching job. The coaching change caused Brohm to rethink his decision.

Brohm said he was on the fence about whether to stay. Kragthorpe worried that the star quarterback and probable first-round pick was leaning toward entering the NFL Draft.

"He's going to have a great National Football League career," said Kragthorpe, a former Buffalo Bills quarterbacks coach. "He's going to make a lot of money, and he's going to be very successful.

"I just talked to him about the fact he'd have one more chance to play football for fun, to do it in his hometown with his brother (Louisville quarterbacks coach Jeff Brohm) coaching him, his mom and dad being at every game because they live right there in Louisville, and his dad coming to practice all the time."

Although he hasn't coached a single game for Louisville yet, that conversation proved Kragthorpe is an outstanding recruiter.

That sales pitch might not have been the main reason Brohm decided to return, but it certainly didn't hurt. Brohm also took one look at Kragthorpe's background and quickly determined the new coach was a worthy successor to Petrino.

Kragthorpe came to Louisville after posting a 29-22 record in five seasons at Tulsa, which had gone 2-21 in the two years before his arrival.

"I really fell in love with what he wanted to do with the program and the offense we were going to run," Brohm said. "That's pretty much what it came down to. I wanted to stay for my senior year."

Brohm didn't need all that much convincing.

The lifelong Cardinals fan said he started attending Louisville games when he was 4 or 5 years old. His father played for Louisville, as did two of his older brothers. That's why it meant so much to him to be a part of the first Louisville team to play in a BCS game last year.

Brohm's desire to help Louisville make history one more time helps explain why his teammates all expected him to return.

"I wasn't surprised at all," Louisville wide receiver Harry Douglas said. "Everybody's dream is to win a national championship. And he doesn't have one yet."

He almost did.

I wasn't surprised at all. Everybody's dream is to win a national championship. And he doesn't have one yet.
Louisville wide receiver Harry Douglas on Brian Brohm's decision to return

Louisville probably would have played for the national championship last year if the Cardinals hadn't blown a 25-7 lead against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights scored 21 unanswered points to rally for a 28-25 victory that resulted in Louisville's only loss of the season.

Brohm threw for a career-low 163 yards that night in a performance he can't forget, no matter how hard he tries.

"You don't want to play the 'what if' game, but you wonder what could have been if we'd won that game," Brohm said. "Just to have another shot to maybe get in that national title game is something that really intrigues me."

Even with a new coaching staff, Brohm believes that title shot remains a realistic possibility.

"I think we definitely have the potential to be better than we were last year," Brohm said.

Staying in school also gives Brohm one last chance to prove what he's capable of accomplishing in an entire season. Brohm already owns a Big East record with 11 career 300-yard passing games despite missing portions of the last two seasons with injuries.

Brohm sat out the final two games of the 2005 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He missed two games last year with a sprained right thumb and wore a brace on the thumb for the Cardinals' final five regular-season games.

That kind of history might cause some players to turn pro instead of risking one more injury. Brohm instead used it as motivation to return.

"It really made me want to stay and get a season where I was 100 percent and could show what I can do at my best," Brohm said.

That's a frightening prospect for the rest of the Big East.

Even with that brace on his thumb, Brohm closed the regular season last year by throwing eight touchdown passes with only one interception in back-to-back victories over Pittsburgh and Connecticut. The third-year starter has completed 66.3 percent of his career passes for 6,751 yards with 41 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions.

Hawaii's Colt Brennan is the only active quarterback with a higher career passer efficiency rating through at least 15 games.

"He knows what he's doing," Syracuse strong safety Dowayne Davis said. "He knows how to go at it. He studies the game really well. You can tell by the way he goes along in a game and just picks you apart. He knows your weakness. He's a solid athlete, and you can tell he works hard at his craft."

That work ethic is what impresses Kragthorpe the most about his new quarterback.

"He's a guy who's a tremendous leader," Kragthorpe said. "He's very unselfish. He's a guy who enjoys the mental challenge of playing quarterback. As you progress from level to level from high school to college and from college to the NFL the mental part is what distinguishes you."

Those qualities eventually should allow Brohm to distinguish himself from the rest of the NFL quarterback prospects, but he's willing to wait for that opportunity.

Right now he's more concerned with helping Louisville progress to the next level.

Big East Media Day Photo Gallery | Competition fuels West Virginia duo | Media Day Notebook

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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