Petrino born into coaching

Updated: August 14, 2003, 11:16 AM ET

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- If Bobby Petrino hadn't become a football coach, his father thinks he would've made a great detective.

"He always had a knack for looking at something and understanding it very quickly," said Bob Petrino, Sr., who coached NAIA powerhouse Carroll College in Montana for 28 years before retiring in 1998.

Bobby, 42, who is beginning his first year as the coach at Louisville, discovered at an early age he wanted to use his natural aptitude for football.

By the second grade, he was helping his dad break down game film. By the fourth grade, he was following his father on the sideline, keeping the offensive chart. By high school, he was drawing up plays for his father's team.

"I grew up watching him coach and wanted to be involved," Bobby said.

"He was always around football because of me," Bob Sr. said, "but he always seemed to like it."

There were other sports, too. Bobby was trying to dribble a basketball at 2 and won an amateur speed skating title in Canada while still in elementary school.

But football was never far away.

"Every activity our family did revolved around it," he said.

Bobby was the quarterback at Capital High School in Helena, then became an NAIA All-American playing for his father. Some of his college friends were cowboys from Montana's open range, and Bobby dabbled in rounding up cattle on horseback -- something his father discouraged.

"I enjoyed doing it, but my father liked to keep me off of them. He didn't want his quarterback getting hurt," Bobby said.

Bobby also was a shooting guard for his high school and college basketball teams, but football always fascinated him more.

"I understood football better," Bobby said.

The sport shaped his relationship with his only brother, Paul, who's six years younger and now his offensive coordinator at Louisville.

Paul also played quarterback for their father, and Bobby served as offensive coordinator during his brother's freshman and sophomore seasons. Carroll led the nation in total offense both years, 1985 and 1986.

"He was like a second father figure," said Paul, who set 16 school records. "My dad would work with me on stuff, and then he (Bobby) would work with me on stuff."

One of Bobby's first moves when he became Louisville's coach last December was to hire his brother, who had been the quarterbacks coach at Southern Mississippi since 2000.

The players have noticed that Paul Petrino is the more outwardly emotional of the two. In practice, receivers are instructed to sprint an extra 40 yards after a catch. When they forget, Paul chases them down the field, screaming, while Bobby quietly stands at the scrimmage line and makes notes on a sheet of plays.

Paul said his older brother's mild-mannered exterior belies his intensity.

"We've both got a lot of our dad in us. He's really, really emotional," Paul said.

Much about the game has changed since the Petrino brothers worked with their father. But Bob Sr. is still the first person Bobby will call if he has a coaching question.

"He was the best coach I've ever been around," Bobby said. "His ability to motivate and teach and find a way to win when he wasn't supposed to was what I really took from him."

Bobby's wife, Becky, and their four children have attended many of the team's early workouts. The oldest son, Nick, is a freshman quarterback at defending state champion Trinity High School in Louisville.

Last spring, Bob Sr. and his wife, Patsy, spent a month in Louisville watching their son run practices.

"He was super-organized, he's a good teacher, and the players were listening, and that's a good sign," the elder Petrino said. "I'm very proud -- but now that's just me talking like his dad."

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