Back during his first go-round as University of Louisville coach, Bobby Petrino entertained somewhere between 200 and 300 people at national football day signing ceremonies at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Everybody knew everyone else and seemed to be on a first name basis, so familiar they were with each other from previous signing events.
The Brown & Williamson Club was packed from one end to the other at Wednesday’s ceremonies, attracting at least 1,100 people sitting or standing shoulder to shoulder. Forty rows of 20 seats across, most of them occupied. Two or three hundred standing in the back. Wedged in there they were. Lots of new faces, male, female, young and older, newcomers, veterans, eager to get the coaches’ assessment on income talent.
The most optimistic and loudest signing celebration in recent memory. Of course, it has been eight years since Bobby Petrino last had one, Steve Kragthorpe’s weren’t anything to write home about, and Charlie Strong didn’t have the first one. Fans were excited about football, even more excited to have Petrino back. A coach who appreciates these events, knows the fans want them, and gives them what they want.
“We want to light up the scoreboard,” he proclaimed emphatically after getting on stage, igniting a loud roar of appreciation from a crowd that embraced his aggressive offensive philosophy. That was the take away line, the one that brought memories of crushing scores, taking knees, not taking knees (against UK, of course), opponents being demolished almost beyond recognition. What UofL fans have hungered for since the old Bobby left.
During his pre-party press conference, Petrino said he expects competition for the starting quarterback spot.
“We want to get quarterbacks who will compete against each other and win the job on the field,” he said, acknowledging that Will Gardner probably has the lead right now. “We’re telling Reggie (Bonnafon) that we want him to do everything he can between now and August to get ready compete for the starting job.
“We haven’t seen a lot of the two quarterbacks we have right now. But we do know that Will is very, very talented. He’s got a big arm, he’s intelligent, he understands football concepts and what’s going on, knows about coverages. But it’s certainly going to be open. Somebody’s got to jump in there first and it will probably be Will. But they get to determine that on the practice field.”