After leading Louisville to an Orange Bowl victory, Brian Brohm was faced with a tough decision — enter the NFL Draft or stay in school for his senior season. But when his coach, Bobby Petrino, left Louisville for the NFL, Brohm began to reconsider his initial instinct to stay in school. After talking with new Cardinals head coach Steve Kragthorpe, Brohm decided to stay and play in a new system.
Brohm gave up the opportunity to be a potential top-five selection in the 2007 draft in hopes of leading Louisville to a national championship. But after a disastrous team effort this past season, Brohm still managed to post impressive numbers. He completed 308 of 473 passes (65.1 percent) for 4,024 yards, 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Even though Brohm posted elite statistics, some analysts don’t project him to be a first-round selection. So-called experts have anointed Boston College's Matt Ryan as the clear-cut favorite to be the lone QB in the first round, despite Ryan’s questionable performance this past season. Ryan completed just 59 percent of his passes on 654 attempts and threw 19 interceptions against 31 touchdowns.
Personally, I don’t understand how Brohm has fallen out of favor so quickly and why Ryan is on the rise. In this two-part Q&A, I got to know Brohm, my No. 1-rated signal-caller, a little better.
Chris Steuber: How did football become a part of your life?
Brian Brohm: Football has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My brothers were so much older than me, that when I was young, they were already playing ball in high school. I was always around games. I was always at the field watching them play and wanting to be just like them. They went on to play college ball. My brother [Jeff] went onto the NFL, and I got to see him play for numerous years. I’ve just been around football my whole life, and I always admired my brothers. They loved playing football, they loved playing sports, and that’s what I wanted to do. And that’s what I did.
CS: Was there a moment, a time or a talk you had with someone at some point when you realized that football would become a big part of your life?
BB: I just think it was going to be that way. There wasn’t a specific moment. It was just something that was huge in my life since I was a little kid. Like I said, just being around my brothers, I was around it all the time. We talked about it all the time. It’s just been a big part of my family ever since I’ve been alive. I always wanted to be a football player.
CS: You were a highly-touted high school athlete at Trinity High School in Louisville and were even on the cover of Sports Illustrated while you were at Trinity. How much pressure did you feel as a teenager who was destined to be a star?
BB: [Laughs]… At that time, I think, everything was a lot of fun. But there was a little bit of pressure just from the fact I was following in my brothers’ footsteps. They were such big names at my high school. My brother Jeff’s jersey was retired at Trinity. When I arrived at Trinity as a freshman, I wasn’t like all the other freshman football players or the other freshman. You could just sense that people were expecting big things from me. The expectations just seemed a bit higher for me than anybody else. It’s something I got used to and I sort of liked.
Brohm announces that he will attend the University of Louisville at a press conference at Trinity High School.
AP Photo/Brian Bohannon
CS: Talk about the recruiting process during high school. Was Louisville your first choice, or were there other colleges you were looking at?
BB: Well, Louisville was my favorite. They were my favorite team when I was growing up. I was a huge fan of them, they were the team I watched every week. It was a place I just wanted to go to and be a part of. But as I started to get recruited, I realized there may be some bigger schools out there, some places that may have better opportunities. I explored those options, and Tennessee and Notre Dame were in the mix. I came really close to committing to one of those schools. But when Louisville started to get that Big East push, that’s what really sealed the deal for me. They announced that they were going to be in the Big East conference and had a chance to get into a BCS bowl game and even compete for a national title. That’s all I could really ask for.
CS: Being a local boy and having a lot of success in high school, I’m sure when you arrived at Louisville there was even more pressure that you faced than what you experienced in high school. What was it like being in that role again?
BB: I think a lot of people expected some big things, but no one expected more than I did. It wasn’t something that I couldn’t handle, because I was expecting big things as well. I wanted to lead us to our first BCS bowl game and first national title. I felt like we were pretty successful accomplishing some of those goals, but obviously we didn’t reach the ultimate goal we wanted to achieve. I felt like we moved in the right direction as a program since I got there. I felt pretty good that I was the quarterback that brought the team to the Big East conference and had some success.
CS: So, what’s it like in Louisville for you? Are you like a rock star roaming the streets?
BB: [Laughs]… It’s kind of a different experience. Anywhere I go people recognize me and come up to me. It’s kind of like a big fish in a small pond kind of situation. It’s really been that way from high school until now. Being on the cover of Sports Illustrated gets your name out there. It gets people starting to look at you and they follow you throughout college. Being a hometown guy and being pretty successful at the high school and college level has really elevated my status in the community.
CS: I had the opportunity to speak to you prior to this interview about a year ago, and I found you to be shy and introverted in some ways. Is that true?
CS: Do you find yourself sometimes staying inside to avoid all the attention when you’d rather be out doing something?
BB: [Pause]… Um, sometimes. I don’t do that a whole lot. I just go out and do what I’d normally do. You do have to watch yourself and make sure you don’t get into situations where things may get a little out of control or be placed in an uncomfortable situation. The people are great here. They just want to come up and shake your hand and say hello. They don’t really bother you too much. They just want to be around you and talk to you. I just try to be cordial to people, be nice to people and use my personality around them. I’m kind of laid back, shyer than most people. But it doesn’t really affect me when I go out at all.
CS: I think it’s a good thing that you decided against going to Notre Dame, because the attention you received at Louisville wouldn’t even compare to what you’d face in South Bend.
BB: [Laughs]… Yeah… [Laughs]… Notre Dame has a loyal fan base. If you’re the QB there, you definitely know that you’re going to be well known, and everyone is going to have their eye on you.
CS: Loyal is a word to use when you’re playing well, but being crucified is what will happen if you fail to produce.
BB: [Laughs]… Everybody’s eyes are on you at that school. Every move you make, somebody is watching you, so you have to watch your step a little bit… [Laughs].
CS: Getting back to Louisville, talk about the injuries you endured over your career. You sustained a knee, a thumb and a shoulder injury during your career. Do you feel people who question your durability exaggerate the situation, as most of the injuries were freak happenings?
BB: It seems like injuries come in bunches. I never had any injuries while playing three sports in high school. Even going back to grade school I never got injured. All of a sudden I got three in a row in the middle of my college career. Hopefully those things are over with. I rehabbed really quickly from all of them. I got back extremely fast from the knee injury. The thumb injury, it was unheard of how fast I recovered and came back to play. Most people sit out for a couple of months with the injury I had to my thumb, but I was out for just four weeks. My shoulder injury was just a cleanup. I didn’t have to get surgery, but I figured I’d go ahead and get it fixed and make sure it’s working as well as it can for the next season. I feel as good as I’ve ever felt physically right now. Each injury has its own story and I don’t think they’re related. Those are really the only injuries I’ve ever had during my life playing football.
CS: They say when a quarterback injures his thumb, that can be the most devastating injury of all when it comes to gripping and throwing the ball. How is your thumb, and do you feel any effects from the ligaments your tore?
BB: It’s actually healed really well. It’s probably stronger and better than it was before. I’m actually double-jointed in my thumb and they went in there and made it a little stronger, a little more stable. It’s probably better off now that I had the surgery. I had a world-renowned surgeon conduct the surgery, so I’ve healed up pretty well, and it feels great.
CS: Athletes today are blessed with advanced sports medicine, because if this were the 80’s, your career would be over.
BB: [Laughs]… Exactly. If this was back in the day and I tore my ACL, I’d have a trick knee for the rest of my career. That wouldn’t be very useful. But with surgeries these days, there are not too many injuries that you can have that aren’t correctable, especially with rehab today. It’s a blessing to have that kind of technology and surgeons we have today.
CS: Speaking of injuries and risking your professional future, what went into your decision to stay at Louisville for your senior season, especially when Coach Petrino left for the NFL?
BB: That was a tough decision. I thought about it before Coach Petrino left, and I pretty much had it in my mind that I wanted to come back. I felt like I hadn’t had a season where I was fully healthy, and I kind of wanted to get one of those under my belt. I felt like we had a good team coming back with some good offensive weapons. I was excited about our team. I wanted to come back and try to get back to a BCS bowl game and have a shot at a national title. But when the coaching change happened, I kind of had to reevaluate the situation. I had to get to know Coach Kragthorpe really fast. Once I got to know him, I thought that he’d do a great job. I thought that our team had a chance to be really successful. I thought I could get better as a player by working under a new coach, a new system, and hopefully enjoy a year of full health. I felt like it was the best thing for me to come back. Obviously it didn’t work out as well as we’d like, going 6 – 6 is not the record we were hoping for. It wasn’t even close, but in hindsight I think I learned a lot from it. I definitely got better as a player, and I went through a season being fully healthy. I learned a lot of things that I didn’t necessarily want to learn this year, but I learned them. And hopefully I can use them in a positive manner at the next level.
CS: When you heard Coach Petrino was leaving, did you immediately want to change your mind about staying in school?
BB: To be honest, it made it from a certain decision to a decision that was now 50-50. Before Coach Petrino decided to leave, I was really going to go to him and say I was definitely staying and let’s put this to rest by making an announcement. But when he announced he was leaving, I was in a 50/50 state. So I reevaluated and finally sat down with Coach Kragthorpe. When I sat down with him, I thought about what I really wanted to do, and that was to stay. You only get one shot at your senior season, and I wanted to go ahead and try it out.
Brohm announced that he has decided to return to Louisville to play his senior season.
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
CS: In hindsight, your decision to stay in school could have cost you millions. If you decided to enter the draft after your junior year, many projected — including myself — that you would have been a top-five draft choice in the 2007 draft. But with the untimely ascension of Matt Ryan, which I personally don’t understand since you’re my No. 1 rated QB, do you understand why so many people are down on you at this juncture?
BB: I definitely see where some of those people are coming from. A lot is determined on momentum. If you have success in your final season — the season you’re coming out of and entering the draft — the momentum you’re carrying plays an importance. A quarterback that leads a team that went 6 – 6 raises a few questions about him. My pitch is to go back and watch the film. I feel like I’m a proven winner. Going 12 – 1 and winning the Orange Bowl proves that. Obviously it didn’t happen in my senior season, but we had a winning program all the way up until the end with me starting. I feel like I’ve proven I can win. I won three state championships in high school. I don’t think I did anything to hurt myself, except for lose football games. That’s the bottom line when it comes down to these guys [scouts]; if you can win or lose. I’m going to keep going out there and trying to put on a show for these guys at my Pro Day and personal workouts. I’m going to try to get them to know me as much as possible. I’m going to try to display the knowledge I have of the game to them in the two or three hours of chalk talk we’ll share. I think when they turn the film on, they’ll see a quarterback who can play at the top level and become a franchise quarterback in the NFL. I’m not really worried about it, it’s just the momentum a player can get by just being on a winning team.
CS: Do you think that’s what Matt Ryan is experiencing right now, the momentum he has coming off of a winning season?
BB: He’s the hot guy, the hot topic right now. He had a great year. His team was successful and he made some big plays in some big games. I can see how teams may get hot on him, and they may like what they see. But I feel like I can be a franchise quarterback as well. I deserve to be right up there with him.
CS: I’ve watched a ton of film on Matt Ryan, and I watched about the same amount of film on you, and I don’t get it. In Ryan, I see a guy who didn’t have a No. 1 offensive weapon, but still threw 19 interceptions. That tells me his decision-making is questionable. He forces a lot of throws and doesn’t have a high completion percentage. You, on the other hand, complete a high percentage of your passes and always step up in the pocket. Ryan looks skittish in the pocket and makes errant passes on the run. What are your thoughts?
BB: I haven’t seen a lot of film on Matt, and I don’t really know the intricacies of his game or how he plays. All I know is what I’ve seen on TV, the little bit that I’ve seen. All I know is that hopefully when teams watch the film and they see me play, they see a guy who makes good decisions, is accurate with the football and doesn’t make mistakes throughout the course of a game. I hope they see that I know when to take chances, and I am a guy who can jump right into the next level and be successful.
CS: Brian, I’m sorry. That was my rant on the situation between you and Ryan.
BB: [Laughs]… No problem, I like what you were saying.
Find out what else Chris Steuber asked Brian Brohm in Part II of this exclusive look at Louisville’s star quarterback this week at BearReport.com. In Part II, Brohm breaks down his own game by analyzing his strengths and weaknesses, discusses how Atlanta would have been an ideal situation with Bobby Petrino still on board, answers more questions about Matt Ryan, and much more.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.