Sep 4, 2013
The following feature appeared in the game program for the Kentucky game in Nashville. It was written by Robert Sampson of WKU Athletic Media Relations.
When Bobby Petrino was introduced as the new coach at WKU on Dec. 10, 2012, the vision was clear. It included the normal details of winning and going to bowl games. But the vision for the values that the game of football can begin to instill in young men through the game also came to light in Petrino's vision.
"We need to consistently, every year, go to a bowl game," said Petrino. "We need to win a conference championship every single year. We need to get in a position where we are ranked in the top 25 and get in a position where we can compete to be in a BCS bowl game. That is where we see our program going. When you look at the Boise States of the world, and the teams that have been able to do that, that is our expectation. That is where we feel we have the opportunity to go. I believe in competition and excelling on the football field. That is the number one thing you can do for a young man is to teach him how to excel on the football field. I also really believe in the student-athlete. I am committed to the student-athlete. I want our players to understand that they need to embrace learning. They need to understand they are here to get a degree. Being a football player is a part of their total college experience."
From professional players to walk-ons, the careers beyond football have been outstanding for many former players of Petrino. The life lessons instilled through the game and Petrino's system have also paid off away from the field for many former players.
"This is a huge hire for Western Kentucky University," said Brian Brohm, the former Louisville quarterback who led Louisville to the Orange Bowl under Petrino's watch. "If I was a player at the school, I'd be super excited because I know Coach Petrino is going to make me a better player, give us a great chance of winning and elevate everyone's game. Western Kentucky is going to be very, very happy with this hire and I expect Coach (Petrino) to be very successful there."
Petrino took Louisville to new heights in 2006 with Brohm at quarterback, finishing the season with a 12-1 record and a 24-13 victory over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl. The 12 wins were the most in school history, besting a previous high of 11 set during his second season. The BCS bowl win was also the first in school history. During that 2006 season, the Cardinals averaged over 37 points per game offensively, ranking fourth nationally in that category, while still limiting the opposition to just over 16 points per game. Petrino's offense ranked second in the nation in total yards per game (475.3), while leading the Big East in passing offense (290.0) and first downs (296). Louisville jumped to as high as No. 3 in the national polls during the season, finishing the year ranked sixth in the AP poll, posting three wins over top-15 teams, including third-ranked West Virginia en route to the program's first Big East title.
Eric Wood, a former Louisville lineman and professional teammates of Brohm's during the quarterback's stay with the Buffalo Bills, has enjoyed a successful professional stint because of the qualities Petrino instilled in him during his time at Louisville. "Coach Petrino is a great hire for Western Kentucky University," said Wood. "He is an unbelievable football coach. I can attribute much of my success on the field to the work ethic and technique that Coach Petrino instilled in me. Bringing him back to the state of Kentucky will provide excitement for years to come."
Joe Adams, one of the nation's top all-purpose performers in 2011, played for Petrino at Arkansas. Adams was the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2011, while also being one of five finalists for the 2011 Paul Hornung Award, an award that WKU junior running back Antonio Andrews is up for in 2012. Adams was recognized as an All-American following the 2011 season, and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
"He'll bring a lot of success to Western Kentucky," said Adams. "They'll probably be in a great bowl game, if not next year then the year after. He came to Arkansas and changed us from barely making it to a bowl to every year competing for a BCS game. He did a lot for the program. He got us right and every year we came out ready to battle."
In his most recent coaching stop at Arkansas, Petrino led the Razorbacks to a 34-17 record in four years, going 29-10 in his final three years, increasing his win total in each of his four seasons with Arkansas. In just his second season in Fayetteville, Petrino led Arkansas to an 8-5 record and its first bowl win since 2003, defeating East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The success of the 2009 season propelled Arkansas into the national spotlight in 2010, as the Razorbacks went 10-3, earning a bid to the AllState Sugar Bowl against Ohio State -- the program's first-ever BCS bowl bid. Petrino followed up the 2010 season with a remarkable 11-win campaign in 2011, matching the single-season school record. Arkansas closed out the year with a win over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl, boosting the Razorbacks into the No. 5 national ranking in the final AP poll. Arkansas led the Southeastern Conference in passing offense (300.7) for the third consecutive year in 2011, while also leading the conference in total offense (438.1) and scoring offense (36.8).
Former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and current New England Patriot Deion Branch lauds Petrino for his preparation and ability to work with players in having them prepared.
"I only spent a brief time with Coach Petrino at Louisville, but in that time I worked with him I was able to witness first-hand how thorough he is in his preparation," said Branch. "His players will soon see that he has been successful because he works so well with his players getting them prepared and in position to succeed. He is a brilliant coach."
"I think it is a great hire for Western Kentucky," added Arizona Cardinal Kerry Rhodes. "Coach Petrino is a great X's and O's guy and somebody who really gets the best out of you as a player. On a personal level, he really got the best out of me. After my junior season, I thought I had a nice year, but he thought I could play better. He challenged me. He is a guy that is going to tell you exactly what he wants from you. He made me a very confident player and helped me believe in myself. While he was with me at Louisville, he really turned around the program and did the same thing at Arkansas. They are getting a great guy and a great coach."
Ryan Mallett, a member of the New England Patriots and quarterback for Petrino at Arkansas, saw the coach as a positive mentor that helped him prepare for the NFL. "Bobby Petrino will be great for the Western Kentucky football program," said Mallett. "He loves football and truly has a passion for the game. He is able to transfer his knowledge to his players so they can learn. He certainly has taught me a lot about football and has been a positive mentor to me. He helped position me for my journey into the NFL."
The praises from former players does not end with those who have reached great heights. Two former players that began their careers as walk-ons and eventually became stars at Louisville gave some of the highest praises of all.
"I am very excited for Bobby Petrino getting the opportunity to be the head football coach at Western Kentucky University," said Art Carmody, an elite kicker for Louisville during the Petrino years. "In my opinion there is not a better offensive mind in football and I can't wait to watch his team take the field this fall. He means a lot to me. He gave me an opportunity to join his program as a walk-on and to earn a scholarship. Coach taught me the importance of attention to detail, being prepared, being mentally tough, and focused on doing my job to the best of my ability. I owe a lot of my success on and off the football field to him."
Hunter Cantwell, who excelled as a back-up to Brohm and eventually as a starter for the Cardinals, provides yet another example of the rise from in-state walk-on to elite star.
"When you are a walk on player you usually don't get much attention from the Coaching Staff, like zero. That wasn't the case with Petrino. He made sure everyone on his team was getting better and I was no exception," said Cantwell.
When Brohm went down with an injury, Cantwell was ready to step in and succeed because of the preparation Petrino had put him through.
"I can say if it would have been any other coach I probably would never have gotten the chance in practice to develop and to be coached hard, the attention he gave me as a walk-on player was phenomenal and unusual for a big time college head coach. "He always pushed us to be the best we could be and as I look back at my own playing career, and the time I was blessed with to be an NFL quarterback I know that Coach Petrino played a huge role in my success not only on the football field but in my time at Louisville, dealing with family sickness, being away from home, and pushing me to excel in the classroom!"
How to Follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Hilltopper Football, follow the program via social media @WKUFootball on Twitter and on Facebook at facebook.com/WKUFootball.