BOZICH | Brohm fits Purdue as easily as he fit Louisville
One more Jeff Brohm story as good as the Manny Ramirez, Lou Holtz, Nick Saban and XFL stories as he begins his career as the Purdue head coach against Louisville Saturday night.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WDRB) — I was convinced I had all the entertaining Jeff Brohm stories recorded, cataloged and appropriately shared.
The one about playing minor league baseball with Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome in the Cleveland Indians’ system.
The one about telling Lou Holtz he didn’t want to play the most glamorous position in college football — Notre Dame quarterback — because he wanted to play at the University of Louisville in a sagging minor-league baseball stadium.
Throwing touchdown passes to his brother, Greg. Undressing his younger brother, Brian, on the sideline at Rutgers. Winning the Liberty Bowl while playing quarterback with a mangled finger on his throwing hand. Those are the tip of U of L folder in the Jeff Brohm File.
The Super Bowl trip with the Chargers. Getting KOd in the XFL. Coaching the Louisville Fire after a personality test revealed he was suited for work as a private investigator.
Turning down not one, but two, invitations to direct the Alabama offense for Nick Saban.
Don’t forget Brohm’s Big Ten coaching debut, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Louisville, his alma mater as well as the alma mater of his father and brothers, at Lucas Oil Stadium. (WDRB will televise the game as well as a 90-minute pre-game show that begins at 6 p.m.)
What more could there be for somebody who has written about Jeff Brohm for three decades and known his father, Oscar, for more than 40 years?
Follow me to the parking lot outside the Purdue football complex. I’ll show you.
There, hidden in a sparkling collection of SUVs, pick-up trucks and fancy foreign sedans, sits the vehicle Jeff Brohm drives to work — on the days he does not cover the mile from his home by walking or riding his bicycle.
Even with assistance from the Purdue staff, you’d never find Brohm’s car without the sign that says:
HEAD FOOTBALL COACH
ENFORCED 24 HOURS
Look for a dark gray 2005 Honda Accord with more than 120,000 miles and the scratches that come with a dozen years on the highway.
“If you open the passenger side door, you might not be able to get it closed because there might have been an older family member that you’re talking to right now who bumped it off a guard rail while driving home from Bowling Green one night,” Oscar Brohm said.
“Might be,” Brohm said, with another laugh.
Actually, I might need to ask another question: Brohm is scheduled to earn at least $3 million per season over the next six years at Purdue, which hired him from Western Kentucky last December. That number does not include Brohm’s annual $15,000 car allowance.
For $15,000, Brohm could buy at least a pair of 2005 Honda Accords with 120,000 miles and a faulty passenger front door, correct?
“I’m sure Jeff will get another vehicle, but it’s not one of his top priorities,” Oscar Brohm said. “He’s more worried about his football team.
But that’s the Brohm way. Jeff got the car when he was an assistant at Louisville and let his Dad drive it when he was given vehicles at other jobs Why be wasteful? Stick to what’s important. Maximize your resources. Show people what you can do with your actions. Be dependable.
Brohm did it as a player at Trinity, winning multiple state titles. Did it as a player at Louisville as a member of Cards” teams that won the Fiesta and Liberty Bowls. Did it in the NFL and XFL.
Did it while grinding the old school way through the coaching ranks from (1) the Louisville Fire to (2) U of L to (3) Florida Atlantic to (4) Illinois to (5) UAB to (6) Western Kentucky.
U of L coach Bobby Petrino got him from Step 1 to Step 2 and then from Step 5 to Step 6.
You never know who you’re going to impress or how you’re going to do it. Oscar Brohm said the first impression Jeff made on Petrino was not with the Fire. It was as a player at Louisville.
Petrino was an assistant coach at Arizona State in 1992 and 1993 when the Sun Devils played the Cardinals in a home-and-home series. Arizona State won the first game 19-0 in Tempe. Ugly Louisville offense.
The Cardinals won the rematch against the No. 23 Sun Devils at old Cardinal Stadium, 35-17. Crackling Cards’ offense.
Brohm convinced Schnellenberger to let him utilize his athleticism at the quarterback position by running multiple plays from the shotgun formation, which was not Schnellenberger’s favorite alignment.
It worked. Petrino noticed.
“Even as a young player who was really athletic, Jeff tried to think through the game,” Oscar Brohm. “He wanted to understand why plays worked and why they didn’t work.”
This is what the record shows: Brohm’s three teams at WKU ranked in the top five in passing yards and top 10 in total yards from 2014-16.
His WKU teams won 30 of 40 games. Brohm shot to the top of athletic director Mike Bobinski’s replacement list for Purdue coach Darrell Hazell seconds after Hazell was fired in mid-October.
By Dec. 3, after WKU had won its second Conference USA title by defeating Southern Mississippi, Brohm had three options:Cincinnati, Purdue and Western Kentucky.
Baylor had plenty of cash and would have to offer the longest contract because of the NCAA nonsense percolating around te program.
The Cincinnati job reminded many of Brohm’s friends of the job at Louisville, sitting near Brohm’s recruiting sweet spot. He could win there. Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) and Butch Jones (Tennessee) showed that.
But Purdue was the job that truly intrigued him. The Boilermakers had Bobinski, an accomplished athletic director who thought big. The construction of Purdue’s $65 million football complex was more than halfway complete.
Brohm is a quarterback who grew up in a quarterback family, and if you’re a student of college football you remember the days when Purdue was Quarterback U — Dawson, Griese, Phipps, Danielson, Everett, Orton, Brees and others.
One of Jeff’s final conversations was with Oscar.
“I remember telling him, “if you go to Cincinnati and win what’s going to happen next?’ “ Oscar Brohm said “You’re going to get offered a job in the Big Ten.
“You’ve already got a Big Ten offer — and a very good one.”
A very good job that came with a very strange twist: For first time in dozens of years, the Brohm Family will be competing against the University of Louisville.
“It’s an interesting scenario,” Jeff Brohm said. “Without question, Louisville means a lot to myself and our family. We love the area. We’ve been able to accomplish some things there and do it around people that we like and that have been a part of it and that we want everybody to feel a part of our team. They’ve been a big part of any success we’ve had along the way.
“To play against a school that you went to and coached at and played at around a bunch of people you know is challenging …
“But you know what? When you get on the field, when you get into competition, you want to make sure that you hold your own and that you come prepared and that you make yourself, your family, your team proud, your hometown proud. All those things matter.
“We’re going to work hard to do our part to make it a game and have some fun with it. That’s really what it’s all about.”
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