LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jeff Brohm and his coaching staff have already scripted the game plans for Western Kentucky’s first four football games – Bowling Green, Illinois, Middle Tennessee and Navy.
Wonder who drilled that level of preparation into his playbook?
Brohm can tell you stories about working in the batting cage with Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez, something he did during his two seasons as a minor leaguer with the Cleveland Indians. In fact, considering he was a fourth-round draft pick, Brohm will tell you he should have pursued a baseball career.
“You can play a lot longer and you don’t get keep getting knocked down,” he said, with laugh.
Then there are the stories about all the wonderful insights he learned about the passing game whenever Hall of Famer Bill Walsh would visit the San Francisco 49ers practice field to work with Steve Young, Elvis Grbac and Brohm.
Don’t forget that afternoon Brohm threw his first – and only – NFL scoring pass to … (drum roll, please) the one and only Terrell Owens.
“You can make a lot of money with that trivia question,” Brohm said.
All of those items are wonderful anecdotes. Each would be a fitting launch to this column. But not this year. When WKU opens its season Aug. 29 by hosting Bowling Green it will be Brohm’s first game as a head coach.
This is the question that must be asked today:
Was Jeff Brohm the right guy for WKU?
He’s smart, enthusiastic and determined. He’s excelled, been knocked down, bounced back, been knocked around a few more times and taken a few more snaps.
Brohm said that when he returned to Western to work with Bobby Petrino before the 2013 season that he agreed to the move with one critical stipulation:
He didn’t merely want to drill the quarterbacks, develop the game plan and call plays. He wanted Petrino to show him everything that a head coach needed to do to succeed – interact with players and recruits, work with administrators, sell the program to fans and alumni and develop a winning culture of teamwork.
“Bobby was great,” Brohm said. “I learned so much last year. When you’re coaching the quarterbacks basically you’re responsible for five or six guys. Now I want to make sure I’m connected with everybody. That’s important. I didn’t think this was happen this fast, but it was a very productive year.”
Brohm said he is not a guy who grew up wanting to be a coach. He was always too busy throwing a football or hitting a baseball. His DNA was participant, not spectator. His desire to coach started to blossom when he played for Howard Schnellenberger at the University of Louisville. He convinced the veteran coach to let him run plays from the shotgun formation, a scheme Schnellenberger never favored.
Think about this list of guys who have mentored Brohm:
Petrino, Schnellenberger, Walsh, (Bears coach) Marc Trestman, Steve Mariucci, Young, Jim Mora, Bobby Ross, Cam Cameron, Norv Turner, Pete Carroll, Tony Dungy, Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak.
Here is one more thing I like about the Brohm Administration: He was wise enough to surround himself with a tested, veteran staff.
Six assistants stayed from the Petrino era. Nick Holt ran the defense at USC and Washington. Neil Callaway ran the offense at Alabama and Georgia. Mike Cassity ran the defense at Louisville and Illinois. Greg Nord knows the game – and the state of Kentucky.
Brohm summoned older brother, Greg, to help connect any loose ends. His father, Oscar, a guy he calls “The Quarterback Whisperer,” is certain have a front-row seat at L.T. Smith for every WKU home game.
Does any of that guarantee another eight-win season in Bowling Green?
The Hilltoppers have moved from the Sun Belt to Conference USA, a deeper, more formidable league. Phil Steele predicts Western will finish fourth in the Eastern Division, behind Marshall, Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic.
WKU will play three of its first four games on the road. The home game is the opener against Bowling Green, which is predicted to win the Mid-American Conference and nearly toppled Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Bowl. Five players who are currently competing in NFL training camps must be replaced.
So Brohm grinds. He said he drags his laptop everywhere he goes, parking it on the kitchen table when he returns home at night. After his wife and two children are asleep, he fires it up for at least two hours of extra research on opponents, game plans or practice video.
“This opportunity means the world to me,” Brohm said. “I’m very fortunate to have it.”