With National Signing Day rapidly approaching, we decided to take a look back at some of Louisville's top recruiting moments in recent history and we'll start with a glance at Bobby Petrino's first tenure as the Cardinals head coach.
Upon his first hiring at the University of Louisville in December 2002, Petrino was blessed to arrive just as a number of highly sought after athletes were making their rise in the local high schools. After being introduced as the program's 19th head coach two days before Christmas, he quickly turned his attention to the area schools, and one player in particular.
Michael Bush at Louisville Male was busy collecting scholarship offers from nearly every major program in the country. The multi-sport star had just wrapped up a prep career that was him earn countless post-season accolades, including Kentucky's Mr. Football and Parade All-American. During his run at Male, Bush earned All-State honors for his play at multiple positions and completed his career with the Bulldogs with 180 catches for 3,031 yards and 37 touchdowns, an additional 1,581 yards and 25 scores on the ground, while also completing 221 of 385 passes for 3,379 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Despite having less than two months until National Signing Day, Petrino and his staff's hard work was rewarded when Bush, who was rated among the nation's Top 100 prospects by Scout.com, spurned offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee and others to sign with the Cardinals, becoming the highest-rated prospect in the history of the program to do so.
Bush hoped to play quarterback in college and Petrino provided the opportunity, but the Cardinals new coach knew his new star player's abilities were best suited to carry the ball.
“I did have some time to spend with Michael Bush and his father and told him my beliefs,” Petrino said at the time. “I told him that I believe that he'll be one of the best tailbacks to ever play college football…he's that good.”
Bush went on to star at Louisville for three seasons, earning multiple All-Conference honors. As a junior he established a new school record for rushing touchdowns with 23 and points scored with 144. He scored two or more touchdowns in nine of ten games and lead the nation in scoring with an average of 14.4 ppg.
His fourth quarter performance in the 2004 Liberty Bowl against No.8 Boise State helped secure a 44-40 victory over the previously unbeaten Broncos.
As a senior, he suffered a broken leg during the season-opener against Kentucky forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. While he gained a medical redshirt, Bush chose to forgo his final year of eligibility to pursue a career in the NFL.
He was a fourth round pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2007 NFL Draft and has spent eight years in the league, suiting up with three different teams.
Bush remains tied with Deon Booker for most consecutive 100+ yard games in U of L history with 5. His 23 touchdowns in 2005 remain the most in a single season, while his 39 career touchdowns trails only the record of 43 set by Lenny Lyles.
Bush's commitment to the Cardinals in 2003 helped pave the way for future local prospects to choose to remain home instead of heading out of state for their college days.
Petrino's fortunes with local talent continued into his second year with the Cardinals, as Trinity quarterback Brian Brohm became one of the highest-rated prospects in the 2004 class.
Brohm led Trinity to three state championships, while throwing for 10,579 yards and 119 touchdowns during his prep career. His accuracy set a new state record for career completion percentage. He was All-State selection throughout his time with the Shamrocks and as senior was chosen as the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year, Gatorade Player of the Year and Kentucky's Mr. Football.
Rated among the Scout.com Top 100, Brohm's whittled his lengthy list of scholarship offers to five late in the recruiting process. After making official visits with Illinois, Kentucky, Notre Dame and Tennessee, Brohm committed to Louisville shortly after his visit with the Cardinals program.
His father Oscar quarterbacked the Cardinals in the late 1960's and his older brothers, Jeff and Greg, were stars on Howard Schnellenberger's teams in the early 1990's, so Louisville was often considered the favorite and he confirmed that at a press conference held at his school two weeks before signing day.
“In my heart, Louisville was always the school that was number one,” Brohm said at the time.
Brohm saw significant playing time as a freshman, playing behind starting quarterback Stefan Lefors. He saw his first action of his career in the season-opener against Kentucky and led the Cardinals on a 13 play scoring drive for the team's first score in their 28-0 victory.
Brohm helped guide Louisville to its first BCS bowl appearance in the 2007 Orange Bowl, where the Cardinals defeated ACC Champion Wake Forest 24-13. Brohm threw for 311 yards and was named the Most Outstanding Player. The Cardinals finished the season ranked No.5, the highest-ever for the program.
While projected a high round draft pick following his junior campaign, Brohm surprised many when he elected to return for his senior year.
Brohm threw for 10,775 yards, second highest in school history, and 70 touchdowns during his Cardinal career.
Brohm's name is scattered throughout the U of L record book including most completions in a game with 45 against Syracuse in 2007, and a then single-season school record 30 touchdowns in 2007, only to be bettered by Teddy Bridgewater's 31 in 2013. During the 2006 season, Brohm averaged 15.3 yards per completion, a mark that remains the best in program history, while his career 65.8 completion percentage ranks third, trailing just Bridgewater and Lefors.
He was selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He spent three seasons in the NFL and has spent the past few seasons in the Canadian Football League.
The commitments made by Michael Bush and Brian Brohm drew headlines across the country when they made their decisions public and the headlines continued throughout their Cardinal careers. Their efforts and accomplishments while wearing the red and black certainly lived up to the high ratings each received during their prep days, as their names are now etched in stone as two of the greatest to ever suit up for the Cardinals.