Like many University of Louisville football fans who have been following the Cards since the days of Coach Howard Schnellenberger or earlier, I appreciate the team’s successes not only because of the current gratification that a record-breaking win brings but also because of the journey I have seen the program take.
As I observed the latest step in that journey – the Cards’ first win over a top-2 ranked team – I wanted to take in every moment and savor it as long as possible. Being an out-of-town UofL fan, I couldn’t wait to get to Louisville and be there for what seemed in some ways like the football equivalent of Derby Week.
I flew to Louisville two days before Saturday’s game against Florida State, watching NFL Thursday Night Football on my phone during the flight. The New York Jets were playing the Buffalo Bills, but more importantly the game featured six former UofL players. As a UofL fan I took pride in Preston Brown leading all tacklers; Eric Wood, John Miller and Calvin Pryor joining Brown as starters for their teams; and Bilal Powell and Lorenzo Mauldin playing in reserve roles. If not for injury, Breno Giacomini would also have been starting. Most of these players ended up traveling to Louisville not long after me, spending a rare weekend off to support their Cards.
On Friday my daughter and I went to see the ESPN College GameDay set outside the Howard Schnellenberger football complex at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. With the circus environment that GameDay and the increased media presence in Louisville were creating around the stadium and practice facility I wondered how much of a distraction it might be to the team. Then I peeked through the gate and caught a glimpse of the Cards going through their Friday walkthrough. The stadium seemed to provide a sanctuary from the noise, allowing the team to prepare in the business-like manner that Coach Bobby Petrino demands.