Dec. 31, 2006
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -There are certain expectations that come with being the Golden Boy of the first family of Louisville football.
Brian Brohm has surpassed every one.
Yet all the wins and all the yards and all the attention can't protect the Louisville quarterback from his toughest audience: the Brohm family dinner table.
More than a few long Sunday afternoons through the years have been spent with Brohm listening to father Oscar and older brothers Jeff and Greg - all former Cardinal players - breaking down his performance, for better or for worse.
And no matter how good the better is, Brian knows his father and brothers won't let him go without mentioning the worse, no matter how little of it there is.
"I always have something to work on and (they don't) let you get the big head," Brohm said. "They've always kept me down and kept me working hard."
All that effort has helped the youngest Brohm do something this season his father and brothers could never dream: leading the fifth-ranked Cardinals to a Big East title and a berth in the Orange Bowl. Louisville (11-1) plays No. 15 Wake Forest (11-2) on Tuesday night with a chance to put an exclamation point on the greatest season in school history.
A win could provide a fitting final chapter of a family legacy that began nearly 40 years ago when Oscar called the plays in front of sparse crowds at Cardinal Stadium for a program that played in the Missouri Valley Conference against the likes of Drake and North Texas State.
Four decades later, the Cardinals are a fixture on national television playing against college football's elite while Oscar's youngest son leads one of the country's most dynamic offenses in front of packed houses at sparkling Papa John's Stadium.
A Brohm has been involved in nearly ever significant moment in the program's history since 1968. And while Jeff, the team's quarterback coach, and Greg, the director of football operations, will likely remain on coach Bobby Petrino's staff for the foreseeable future, the Orange Bowl might be the final time a Brohm dons a Louisville jersey - at least until the next generation.
Though Brian has said repeatedly that he's not ready to think about the NFL, the NFL apparently, is ready to think about him. His name pops up frequently in mock drafts and one "expert" last week even projected him as the top quarterback taken.
"You can't worry about that," Brian said. "I'm just thinking about going out and winning the Orange Bowl for this program."
It's that kind of focus that coach Bobby Petrino said helps make Brohm one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. It's a focus he developed on all those weekend film sessions with his family, when he'd try to filter out the bad while listening to the good.
"I think having his older brothers always critiquing him has helped him be the Teflon Man," Oscar Brohm said. "Everything just bounces off of him. That's one of his strengths."
So, too, is responding to adversity. Twice in the last 13 months he has sustained a significant injury. He tore the ACL in his right knee against Syracuse at the end of his sophomore season and sustained ligament damage to the thumb on his right (throwing) hand in a win over Miami this season.
Both injuries required surgery. And both times Brohm was back on the field ahead of schedule.
"That's how I'm made, I don't want to miss any games or be out for anything," Brohm said.
Even if it means disobeying doctor's orders. Barely a week after injuring the thumb against the Hurricanes, Brohm was trying to take off the cast so he could practice taking a snap. He kept telling center and roommate Eric Wood he was ready to go even though his thumb was swollen to three times its usual size.
"I was trying to get him to take the hand cast off before I could, I was trying to rehab it before I was supposed to," he said. "They didn't tell me I couldn't (take the cast off). It came off pretty easy."
Brohm will call on that mental toughness in the days following the season when he decides between heading to the NFL or returning for his senior season. The Cardinals could be ready to make another run at a national championship if he comes back, but the lure of a lucrative life in the NFL may be too much to pass up.
One thing is certain: he won't make the decision without bringing it up at the Brohm family dinner table first.
Only this time, he'll be the one doing the talking.