While Petrino, who left Sunday to coach the Atlanta Falcons, was known as a strict disciplinarian on the field and somewhat distant from his players off of it, the 41 year-old Kragthorpe has a different approach.
"I run a players-first program," Kragthorpe said. "The players are the one's that make this thing tick and I have been labeled at times a players' coach. I think that's because I take pride in developing relationships with players. I don't look at them just as football players. I look at them as people."
Kragthorpe met with the Louisville players Tuesday night shortly after being introduced to fans and media at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. If the reactions of sophomores Eric Wood and Adrian Grady are an indication, the rest of the Cardinals will take a quick liking to their new coach.
"He seems like a great guy and I've only heard great things about him," Eric Wood said. "As a player, we're all excited to have him as a coach and hope we can keep the momentum going."
"He's a great guy. I feel comfortable talking to him and he gives off a really good vibe," Adrian Grady said. "I felt a lot more comfortable around him than the first time I met the other guy that was here."
That "other guy," Grady referred to was, of course, the departed Petrino. While Petrino might not have been the most accessible to his players, that won't be the case with Kragthorpe.
"I want to be as accessible as I can and develop relationships with each of these players," Kragthorpe said. "I look at coaching as an opportunity to give back to a game that's given me so much."
It's to be expected that any major coaching change like this will naturally create a certain level of anxiety for the players abandoned by the coach who recruited them. Don't expect those concerns to last long, though.
"It's kind of like coming into college and you don't know what to expect," Wood explained. "I guess I'm a little nervous (because) I've got to learn a new offense and all the new terminology, but I'm excited."
Grady said he's also excited about Kragthorpe's fresh new approach, even if some of his younger teammates are a little uneasy about the transition from Petrino to Kragthorpe.
"I had to speak with our star defensive end, Mr. Whitehead," Grady said. "He was a little uneasy about the situation, but I told him it doesn't have to be bad just because someone else is coming in. There are a few guys that are uneasy around here, but I think we'll be fine and everybody will be around when spring ball starts."
Accompanied at his press conference by his wife Cynthia, three sons Chris, Brad and Nik and parents Dave and Barbara, Kragthorpe talked at length about his family. He also talked about his philosophy, the three F's – faith, family and football, in that order. That's how he intends to run the Louisville football program.
"I'm looking forward to getting to know these guys, not just as a jersey number, but as people," Kragthorpe said. "That's one of the things that is really, really important for me is that I get to have an opportunity to have an impact on their lives like the game of football has on mine."
Apparently, that's the kind of direction Louisville AD Tom Jurich was seeking when he chose Kragthorpe to the lead the Cardinal program.
"Steve is a person very secure in his own skin and that's something that I like very much about him," said Jurich. "He is going to provide this program with the leadership it deserves and it needs and he's going to do it in an unparalleled classy manner."
The players seem ready to embrace the change as well.
"Everyone is a little excited right now," Wood said. "(Coach Kragthorpe knows a lot about the game of football, a ton more than me. I've got a lot to learn from him and I'm excited. We're all excited to play for him. Change can be good and hopefully we can take another step next year."
"I look forward to this challenge of getting a new coach," added Grady. "The boss has changed but the employees haven't. We're still the same players and we know how to win football games."