The following was written by former Louisville kicker and 2006 Lou Groza Award winner Art Carmody
What a game last week for the Cards. Shutting out anyone is hard to do and UofL has now done it twice.
I want to talk about the punt game really quickly. For someone who had to sit through special teams meetings that he always found incredibly boring, I was pumped to see the unit dominate the punt return game last Saturday. Doug Beaumont taking two (one that counted) punts back to the house was exciting.
The punting game is such a huge, underrated aspect of football to the casual fan, but we practiced the punt and punt return game almost more than any other aspect of special teams. It can completely change a game, as we've seen firsthand in recent years (Hester for Miami in 2004, Taylor for UCONN in 2007, Trent Guy against WVU in 2006, etc.).
Also got to mention my bud Chris Philpott. He kicked four field goals and got the Cards points when they needed them. Watching the game, I was proud to see Chris hit the first field goal from almost the exact same spot he had missed two from the week before. That showed that he had shaken off the previous week and was confident in his ability. Looking forward to watching a confident Cardinal team go up to Pittsburgh this weekend.
QUARTERBACKS: PART 1
Kickers and quarterbacks usually get along very well. We both have smaller position groups than everyone else, we drink far more water than we should be allowed to drink at practice, and we both have penalties in our names that don't allow us to get "roughed." This is part one of my insight into the quarterbacks that I have gotten to know throughout my time in the football program.
This week I wanted to write about Stefan Lefors, one of the greatest quarterbacks in Louisville history, and a fellow Louisianan. First, a quick note on the state of Louisiana: Stefan and I may be from the same state, but we are from completely different parts. I am from north Louisiana, which is just like any other normal part of the country. Nothing too exciting, but a nice place to live. Stefan is from Baton Rouge (south Louisiana), where it is Cajun country. They speak Cajun down there and know how to put on a good party. It's also another pretty cool place.
Louisville was the only school that offered him a scholarship, and he took full advantage. The story of his wonderful family has been well documented. Stefan is the only member of his immediate family that was born with the ability to hear. He was a great leader and teammate. During the season his wife Joy would have some Louisiana dinners for the skill guys and offensive lineman. And in the off-season Joy and Stefan coordinated a big Jambalaya cookout for anyone on the team that wanted to attend. It was some damn good jambalaya.
Bobby Petrino couldn't have had a better QB to give the reins to when he arrived in 2003. He ran the offense to perfection and he was as dangerous as anyone in the country rolling out to his left. He would fake the handoff to one of our many stud running backs, and the dual threat of the run or the pass would keep a lot of defensive coordinators up at night. His senior year will go down as one of the best in school history. That 2004 team was ridiculous and it all started with our quarterbacks. Stefan capped off that season as the Conference USA co-offensive player of the year. He led us to an 11-1 record, Conference USA championship, and Liberty Bowl Championship.
Stefan had a big influence on me during my freshman year. If it wasn't for him, Nate Smith, and Wade Tydacka, I would have been completely lost. Every now and then he would check in with me, not because he had too, but because he wanted too. He did that with a lot of the young players. It is the kind of person he is. When I became the starting kicker in 2004, I always considered myself a part of the offense, but never had any official recognition. I was just the kicker, the guy that tacked on extra points and converted field goals when the offense failed to get into the end zone.
That all changed when I got on the cookie list.
Stefan's wife, Joy, would bake cookies for the offense and select members of the defense. They were good cookies, and it was a privilege to get a bag of them for away games. Stefan was handing them out before our first road game against Army that year, and he tossed me a bag of cookies with my number 18 on them. It was official: I was actually somebody.
Stefan had some huge plays as a Cardinal. His long run against Cincinnati, a fake field goal touchdown against TCU, some big-time throws against Miami in 2004, but instead of talking about those, I want to mention some other Stefan moments. So here they are.
My Top 5 Stefan Moments:
-Before the TCU game in 2004, we were walking down for our warm-ups and head coach Gary Patterson came out of his way to shake Stefan's hand. I'll never forget what Stefan said after he was done shaking his hand: "He is scared." From that point on I felt really good about the game, not because of what Stefan said, but because Stefan knew that Patterson couldn't stop our offense.
-The second moment is actually two plays that didn't involve a football. The first is Stefan running down a South Florida player in 2003 to save the game (at the time) in overtime. He had thrown an interception, and for every other team in the country it would have been the end of the game. However, Stefan running the guy down and making the game-saving tackle showed just what kind of a player and person he was and is. The second is his block that sprang Harry Douglas free for his long touchdown run on a reverse in the 2004 Liberty Bowl. He lowered his shoulder and made sure that Harry had plenty of running room.
--After one of our road games, Danny Barlowe, a freshman offensive lineman, invited me over to his room for pizza. He said that Stefan was coming too, but I didn't believe him. I went over to his room and sure enough there is Stefan eating some Papa John's pizza and watching college football on ESPN. You had a college football star quarterback who took time to hang out with a few freshmen.
-On our longer away game plane rides they would show movies for our entertainment. Some guys would watch the movie, some would listen to their music, some would sleep, etc. On the plane back from Houston, everyone was getting off the plane except for Stefan. He was so engrossed in the movie that he didn't want to get off the plane. Everyone was getting on the bus to go back to the stadium and here comes Stefan, the last one off the airplane. Everyone was asking how the movie ended, but he was very disappointed because it had cut off and he wasn't able to finish it.
-At the 2004 Liberty Bowl, our hotel was right across from a Dave and Busters where a lot of the guys would go over to play games, etc. during their free time. As we got over there one night, my younger brother Aubry noticed Stefan was playing some bowling game and wanted to go over and meet him, but was too shy. I told him to just go over and say hi, that Stefan was cool and wouldn't mind. He went over and Stefan couldn't have been nicer. He asked Aubry if he wanted to play the game with him, and for the next thirty minutes Stefan answered every stupid question my brother was probably asking him. It made my brother's trip.
It is great that he and his family (Stefan and Joy have two awesome kids) are back in Louisville and that he's doing the color commentary for the Cards home games. Stefan will go down as one of the all-time great players to ever put on a Louisville jersey. He was a lot of fun to watch on the football field and was a player who represented all that is great in college athletics.