BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jeff Brohm sat on the podium to answer questions at his introductory news conference as Western Kentucky University head football coach, and in the first three rows, people with the last name "Brohm" outnumbered those who did not have that last name.
I counted. The Brohm family had 15 seats reserved in the front rows on Friday in Bowling Green, and that's only fitting. It was a family moment. Brohm, who takes over after the one-year tenure of Bobby Petrino, took a while to thank his family, then looked at his 9-year-old son, Brady.
"He is the biggest WKU fan there is. You can ask any of our staff, they'll tell you," Brohm said. "He's excited as he has ever been. He likes to be around the players and it is a special time for him, at his age, to be around our guys and feel a part of it. He definitely bleeds red."
A few seats down, Oscar Brohm, father of Jeff, Greg and Brian, watched and smiled. He can remember when Jeff was that age, a natural athlete who would go on not only to the NFL but to play minor league baseball, one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the history of Trinity High School and the University of Louisville. He also was one of the most memorable players in the short history of the XFL, if only because his players won't let him forget.
"He was always a natural athlete," Oscar Brohm said. "I thought he would be a good coach, once he took a serious interest in it."
WKU athletic director Todd Stewart was not shy about saying of Brohm, after interviewing him, he was the one and only choice.
Yes, he's a hometown guy, a legendary name himself in these parts, but make no mistake. He's a serious coach.
Within about fifteen seconds of thanking his coaching influences, he had name-dropped about a half-dozen Hall of Fame names. Coaches like Howard Schnellenberger, Bobby Ross, George Seifert, Steve Mariucci, Mike Shanahan, Tony Dungy and others. He mentioned teammates like Steve Young and Jerry Rice.
The WKU sports information staff asked him for the names of some former coaches or teammates who might say a word about him for the press release. He gave them names like Young, Schnellenberger, Petrino, Ron Zook. They noticed the name of Jay Gruden on the list of people to contact. Kyle Neaves of WKU's sports information staff had just read a story about Gruden being named head coach of the Washington Redskins that day. It said he'd gotten 350 text messages. He figured he'd skip Gruden, but Brohm said, "No, shoot him a text and tell him what you want, he'll call back."
An hour later, Gruden was on the phone with Neaves.
"I couldn't be more excited for him," Gruden said.
Brohm said he held onto playing as long as he could. He always pictured himself as a participant in the games, more than a coach. It was only once he was on the sideline that he began to pick up the interest, and to start making plans.
"I grew up loving to play the game and play sports," Brohm said. "It's something I did for a long time and I tried to do for as long as I could. As long as the teams would keep me, I kept playing. I really enjoyed competing, regardless of what sport it was. I got into coaching. It was an adjustment as a player to put in the hours, how hard you had to work, the meticulous details and realize that as a player yourself you may have been a little more talented, but with other guys you have to teach them the small details on how to win on a daily basis and get better every day. The more and more I got into it the more and more I wanted to do that. This past year, without question, was a preparation stage to try and get back to learn."
Looking back, he realizes the opportunities he's had. Howard Schnellenberger is the greatest builder of programs in his time. Bobby Ross had success at multiple stops. George Seifert was a defensive specialist and two-time Super Bowl winner. And on down the list. Shanahan. Dungy. He spent more time with Petrino than any of them, and said of his old boss, "He is a proven winner and I have a great deal of respect for him. I appreciate everything he has done. His ability to motivate players to achieve their best, be detailed oriented in everything you do, he's definitely somebody I take a lot of components from."
There are no guarantees when a guy gets his first college football coaching job. But looking at Brohm's experience, he's had every opportunity to learn.
And he's his own guy. Stewart said he became convinced of that over the past season.
"I had the terrific advantage of almost looking at Jeff as a 12-month interview," Stewart said. "Certainly when we hired Coach Petrino we knew there was a possibility he might not be here that long. We all hoped he would be here more than one year and I think that if Charlie Strong doesn't take the Texas job, Coach Petrino is still here today. We knew there would be a day, in all probability, he wouldn't be. Jeff, when we hired him (last year), was someone in my mind that I thought could possibly be a head coach."
Brohm scored something of a coup early. WKU defensive coordinator Nick Holt is being courted by other schools. He's held big-time jobs, coordinated defenses at USC, Washington and Arkansas. He also had the opportunity go with Petrino to Louisville. Instead, he's staying with Brohm in Bowling Green, which says something.
"I think it's a fantastic hire," Holt said. "I'm excited to work for him. He's a fantastic football coach, number one, and number two, he's a fantastic person; great family man. I'm excited to stay here, I'm excited to work for the administration here, and I'm excited about the staff that's going to stay here. A lot of these guys had an opportunity to go with Coach Petrino, but they decided to stay here. We'll do something special here. It's a great place."
Brohm will have work to do immediately. He'll have staff positions to fill and recruiting to finish. One player he doesn't have to worry about, apparently, is 2013 Mr. Football Nacarius Fant. The Bowling Green receiver said that even if Petrino and Louisville come calling, he'll stick with the Hilltoppers, having figured he'd wind up playing for Brohm one day anyway.
As far as his staff, one name Brohm won't be able to add is his brother, former U of L quarterback Brian Brohm just yet.
"I'm still playing," Brian said. "But I'm so happy for Jeff, to get a college coaching job and to be close to home is great for our family. I know he's going to be a good coach. He has a lot of creative ideas."
"I want a program here that is exciting for our fans, innovative, creative, always cutting-edge, always working hard to put a great product on the field and be ahead of the curve," Jeff Brohm said. "I think with this staff that we have you will see that. Guys that are committed to winning, guys that put in the time and are willing to experiment to stay ahead of the curve. That is something that is special to me and something that I really work hard on doing."
Schnellenberger has no doubt that his former quarterback is up for the challenge.
"I think he is well prepared to take advantage of this opportunity," Schnellenberger said. "He gets the most out of his players, and he's been in enough developing and building situations that he understands the extra efforts and demands that it takes to bring a program to the next level. It's obvious to me that WKU is on the brink of taking that next step. He knows how to develop a football team."
If anyone ever were ready for this step, you'd think it would be Brohm. He was, except for a few media members filing on deadline, the last guy to leave the room on Friday, stopping to speak with each reporter there before heading out.
"This is a really great place," Brohm said. "I can't imagine a better opportunity."
Saturday, August 30 2014 3:51 PM EDT2014-08-30 19:51:46 GMT
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The University of Kentucky football team got some big plays from young players and a steady start from quarterback Patrick Towles to pound Tennessee-Martin 59-14 in their first season opener at home since 2007. More >>