Petrino endured snow storm to recruit Kelby Johnson

One of Bobby Petrino’s immediate concerns upon returning to the University of Louisville was the lack of depth on the offensive line, especially at right tackle, a position almost considered a liability at times last season. It’s an issue he’s still focused on resolving.

Remember the game against Cincinnati when Teddy Bridgewater was running for his life? The Bearcats defense dominated the offensive line, sacking Bridgewater three times, forcing three hurried throws and chalking up seven tackles for losses. Some memorable and still unbelievable Teddy heroics turned the game in Louisville’s favor.

Kelby Johnson
Kelby Johnson

Petrino apparently has yet to settle on a starter, trying a number of players at the position. One of them includes Kelby Johnson, a 6-foot-7, 299-pound transfer from Bowie, Maryland.  Johnson played four games as true freshman at Virginia.

The UofL coach went through great lengths last winter to get Johnson to Louisville.

Petrino was recruiting in sunny Tampa recruiting when he received a call from Offensive Line Coach Chris Klenakis. He asked Petrino if there was any chance he could get to Brooklyn, New York to see a player at ASA College, a junior college Petrino had never heard of.

“Coach K told me he was really interested in Louisville,” he said. “So I worked it out and flew in there in a snow storm. After we landed, I got out the GPS and it said ASA was nine miles away. I thought nine miles would be a piece of cake.”

ASA College domitory
ASA College

Because of the icy conditions, however, the nine-mile journey would take 45 minutes. “Then when I got there, I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere. One minute I would be a half a mile away and, all of sudden, I was four miles away. I finally parked down by the Barkley Center and ended up walking two miles, with no jacket on, in a snow storm.”

“The dorms they live in were part of an old state mental institution, a little bit of ‘One few over the Cuckoo’s nest.’  But I finally to visit with Kelby, he really liked us and wanted to play for us.”

Coach Klenakis would make a follow up visit the next week, taking advantage of a tip from Petrino. “When you get there, just take a cab and have them drop you off in front of the mental institution.”

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Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.