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Gold and Black Illustrated Vol28, Digital1

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Page 9 of 74

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 1 10 L ook around the parking lot outside Purdue's main athletic hub, between the Mollenkopf Athletic Center and Mackey Arena complexes, and you'll see a mix of vehicles pretty typical, I'd imagine, of a major college athletic department that pays a good amount of money to a good number of people. You see all your standard-fare SUVs, your Explorers, and Acadias, and Durangos, and some of those battle- ship-sized pickups, not to mention the gleam that comes from all those dealer-fresh courtesy-car sedans and light utility vehicles. There's a Hummer in that lot now and sometimes, a little yellow Corvette shows up. But the car that catches the eye more than any other is that gray(ish) 2004 Honda Accord LX with the scratch across its passenger-side flank, not because of what it is, but because of where it's parked: In the spot reserved for "Head Football Coach." That would be new Purdue coach (and former NFL quar- terback, mind you) Jeff Brohm driving around in the very car you buy your kid when they get their learner's permit. "It still runs effectively, gets me from A to B," Brohm says, cracking a smile. "I live less than a mile away. I don't have to go very far. "And my wife and son made fun of me so much at the beginning that it made me want to drive it even more." Jokes aside, it's what the car represents that tells you so much about the coach brought in to fish the middling Boilermaker program from the college football abyss. The car Brohm drives is, quite literally, Brohm's drive. "I said, 'You know, let me use this thing a little bit,' use it to motivate myself, make myself earn a nicer car, so to speak," Brohm said after one of Purdue's August practic- es. "We'll see how that plays out, but I want to try to earn my stripes. That's something kind of personal I've kind of kept to myself, but I do want to earn my way up the ladder." That's the Jeff Brohm who's won pretty much every- where he's been, at every level, and just laid waste to Conference USA with an offense that pushed scoreboard circuit breakers to their breaking point, the guy who could have had any number of jobs the past few years before taking the one at Purdue. He wants to "earn his way up the ladder a little bit." So he drives that car. A few jobs ago, he got it from a dealer in his native Lou- isville, but it's sat idle for much of the time between then and now. Coaches generally get dealer vehicles to use for work purpos- es, so the Accord has mostly sat. It only has about 100,000 miles on it, yet still a Kelley Blue Book value of no more than two grand. (Yes, I asked them.) The reality is Brohm could drive whatever he wants. He drives that, reflecting what this guy's all about. Confident? Absolutely. Competitive? He took this job. Conceited? Look at that car. Brohm's only been on the job since winter, but in that time, he's shown not even a hint of vanity, just the sort of understated nature and reserved temperament — off the field, at least — that's typically fit Purdue well. The car puts a face on it. Yeah, Brohm wants to earn a better one. That's a pretty unique way to look at things, but this isn't your run-of-the-mill college football coach. But, also, this isn't your run-of-the-mill situation. You know, when Brohm first put the keys in the Ac- cord's ignition to head north upon finalizing his, well, ac- cord with Purdue, the engine wouldn't start. It had to be jumped. Twice. Could there possibly be a better metaphor for Brohm's new job? Brohm drives that Honda around, he says, in part be- cause he was raised as a kid and conditioned as a profes- sional to "earn your stripes," that, "no matter what you've done, there's always more out there." You can be certain of this: Those stripes, however he may define them, won't come easy. This is a big, big job, and it's going to require a hell of a lot more than cables and a power source. But I'm not sure there's anybody right now Purdue would rather have behind its wheel. j Neubert can be contacted at Drive To Succeed From Editor Brian Neubert

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