UofL quarterback Lamar Jackson is the heavy favorite to win the Heisman Trophy on December 10 in New York City. Jackson’s position coach this season is Nick Petrino, former Trinity High School quarterback and oldest son of Cards Head Coach Bobby Petrino. Nick led the Rocks to back-to-back state titles in 2005 and 2006. He was a walk-on for his dad at the University of Arkansas before becoming a student assistant for the Razorbacks. Petrino then followed his dad to Western Kentucky and eventually to UofL. He served as a graduate assistant in 2014 and 2015 before being elevated to his current position earlier this year.
What has this ride been like, to go from a state championship quarterback at Trinity to a quarterbacks coach at UofL?
It’s definitely something I always wanted to do, just from playing football here. This is where my family wants to be, all my friends are here. This is the place that I call home. It’s the longest I ever lived somewhere. I always came back to Louisville. I always came back to see my friends as much as I could, and it was really exciting to know that I was going to come back here.
When did you decide that you wanted to get into coaching?
I don’t know how young I was. It seems like it’s been all my life. Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a coach.
What is it like coaching under dad?
It’s good. He definitely pushes me to be a good coach and do things right. There’s parts of it where he’s probably a little harder on me than other people, but it’s only made me better.
Has there ever been a moment at practice when you have caught yourself calling him Dad?
Up here at work it’s usually, “No sir, yes sir.” I try to be very respectful – just like any other coach would be toward him. Back at the house, it’s more that type of relationship.
Do you guys turn football off when the family is around?
He probably does more than I do.
You have witnessed the growth of Lamar more closely than anybody. When did you know that you had a special player?
Probably in the spring. You saw that he was really starting to get it. His technique was getting there and he was understanding, and you could see the game kind of start slowing down for him. I could really see it then. I remember telling some of my friends that he was going to be pretty good. I didn’t know that this year he was going to be this good, but I knew he was going to be a great player.
Did you know then that the Heisman Trophy was a possibility?
I thought he would have a chance to win it.
What is your relationship like with him?
It’s good. As far as Lamar, he’s a great kid. It’s easy to be around him. He’s always happy. He’s always got a smile on his face. He’ll really easy to interact with and he’s really respectful. I think we have a really good relationship.
What would a Heisman Trophy mean for this program?
It would mean a lot. Going back all the way to, as far as quarterbacks go, you’ve got Johnny Unitas. He’s always had the Golden Arm Award. To bring a Heisman Trophy to Louisville, it would mean a lot. Not only to the university but to the city, the fans – it would mean a lot.
What about to you as his position coach?
My first year as a full-time assistant coach, I get to coach Lamar. I’d say I’m pretty lucky. VT