THE RULE OF thumb,
especially when meeting with someone who is offering you the biggest job of
your life, is to keep your cellphone in your pocket. Last Jan. 8, Steve
Kragthorpe was granted an exemption. It was the day after Louisville coach
Bobby Petrino had been lured to the NFL by the Atlanta Falcons, and Cardinals
athletic director Tom Jurich was trying to persuade Kragthorpe, the coach at
Tulsa, to move to Louisville.
They talked while
dining at an Oklahoma City steak house, and midway through the meal Kragthorpe
was given a number to dial. A phone rang in Louisville, and though he didn't
recognize the number on his caller ID, a star quarterback pondering his future
answered. "Hi, this is Steve Kragthorpe," said the voice in Brian
Brohm's ear. "I'm going to be your new head coach."
Six days earlier
Brohm had put on an MVP performance in the Orange Bowl--helping lead Louisville
to its first BCS victory--but because he was being projected as a high
first-round NFL draft pick, he was noncommittal about returning for his senior
year. Kragthorpe says he called Brohm merely "to ease his anxieties"
about Louisville's unsettled coaching situation, but he accomplished more than
that. "That was the first time I had heard about who he was," says
Brohm, who was doing a Google search of Kragthorpe when the phone rang. "He
got me excited."
season Brohm had in 2006, that's saying something. Despite missing two games
with ligament damage to his passing thumb, he threw for 3,094 yards on a team
that finished 12-1. Petrino, regarded as one of the top offensive minds in the
game, oversaw a unit that piled up 475.3 yards a game, second-best in Division
But, as Brohm
found out, the 42-year-old Kragthorpe is not without impressive credentials.
The son of a onetime BYU assistant who also landed head-coaching jobs at Idaho
State and Oregon State, he was a college passer at Eastern New Mexico and West
Texas State and the Buffalo Bills' quarterbacks coach before reviving a
struggling Tulsa program. In 2003, his first year with the Golden Hurricane, he
led a program that had won one game in each of the previous two seasons to its
first bowl game in 12 years. Kragthorpe took Tulsa to three bowls in four
seasons, and last year the offense ranked 24th in the country (388.5 yards per
A day after
formally being introduced as the new coach, Kragthorpe was showing Brohm tape
from his days at Tulsa and giving his quarterback a playbook. Brohm and his
brother Jeff, the Cardinals' quarterbacks coach, liked what they saw.
"[ Tulsa] threw a lot, spread the field and got the ball to their
playmakers," says Brian. On Jan.�15, Brohm announced he was
to incorporate aspects of Petrino's trademark spread with the system he used at
Tulsa, which features a quick-hit passing attack. With big-play wideouts Harry
Douglas (70 catches, 1,265 yards, six touchdowns in 2006) and Mario Urrutia (58
catches, 973 yards, six TDs) on the receiving end, Brohm could lead Louisville
to another BCS appearance and win the Heisman in the process. That would mean
Kragthorpe's first recruiting effort had yielded a significant return.