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Born Leader

Inspired by his deaf parents and brother, quarterback Stefan LeFors is lifting Louisville to new heights

Louisville's Stefan LeFors doesn't look like a star quarterback. He's 6 feet, 200 pounds and lacks arm strength. But the senior possesses all the intangibles of a winner--leadership, maturity and poise--and in last Saturday's 34--0 drubbing of North Carolina, he showed that he's a precise passer who can run. In little more than two quarters LeFors completed 13 of 16 passes for 123 yards and scrambled for 27 more. "Stefan is very cool," says Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. "He's very patient and accurate and doesn't get excited. He makes people around him play better."

For most of his life LeFors has dealt with challenges far greater than football. He grew up outside Baton Rouge as the only hearing member of a deaf family. His mother, father and brother are all deaf and communicate primarily through sign language. Petrino attributes LeFors's remarkable equanimity to the responsibilities he shouldered from an early age as the family's interpreter. "That did kind of make me mature a little faster," says LeFors. "It was all I knew. My parents were very laid-back, and now nothing gets to me."

LeFors has been the catalyst for the No. 22 Cardinals (3--0), who are rolling up 489 yards per game. Louisville, which will jump from Conference USA to the Big East next season, faces its biggest test when it travels to No. 4 Miami on Oct. 14. Last year LeFors led the Cardinals to a 9--4 record while throwing for 3,145 yards and 17 touchdowns. This season he has the nation's 12th-highest passer rating (163.5), having completed 39 of 54 passes for 532 yards and two touchdowns. "With the receivers we have and the protection I'm getting right now, it's been easy," he says.

For all of LeFors's success, however, his grasp on the starting job is hardly secure. He splits time with strong-armed freshman Brian Brohm, the scion of the first family of Louisville football. Brohm's father, Oscar (class of 1970), played quarterback at the school, as did Brian's older brother Jeff ('93), who is his position coach. Brian's other older brother, Greg ('93), was a receiver for the Cardinals and is now the school's director of football operations.

Brohm was the nation's top quarterback recruit last fall, and at 6'4" and 210 pounds, he is many things LeFors is not. In each game so far Petrino has put Brohm in for one series in the second quarter, and on Saturday he let him play the whole fourth quarter. "I think Brian puts some pressure on Stefan," says Petrino. "Just seeing the kind of throws Brian can make adds pressure. I told Stefan he was going to start the first game against Kentucky but that Brian was going to play. It made him relax a little bit."

For LeFors, who remains the starter by continuing to win, there is only one answer. "I work hard and never give up," he says. "In the second quarter Brian's going in regardless of the situation. I expect it. I can't really afford to pay attention to any controversy."

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