For all of the nostalgia surrounding locker-room speeches in sports, Howard Schnellenberger's words before the 1991 Fiesta Bowl rank among the more underrated.
That season, Schnellenger had led the Louisville Cardinals to an impressive 9-1-1 record as a college football independent. Their record, combined with a No. 18 ranking in the Associated Press poll, was good enough to secure a Fiesta Bowl berth and a matchup with powerhouse Alabama.
Although Alabama was past its glory days and had started the season with three straight losses, it had come into the Fiesta Bowl on a hot streak. Moreover, the Crimson Tide were more respected than Louisville, which was viewed nationally as more of a basketball school.
Despite its success that season, the Cardinals football team was not favored by the viewing public. A team that hadn't won a bowl game since 1957 -- hadn't even appeared in a bowl since 1977 -- wasn't going to get the benefit of the doubt.
In the locker room before the game, Schnellenberger played up that narrative.
Louisville's roster was a cast of misfits -- the recruits big schools like Alabama didn't want. They were, according to Schnellenberger, "givers."
The Crimson Tide? They were tough and impressive, highly-recruited, according to The Los Angeles Times. A team of "takers."
Louisville responded to its coach's jabs, and it didn't waste any time in doing so. Lifted by two touchdown passes by Browning Nagle and a blocked punt recovered by Ray Buchanan for a touchdown, the Cardinals stormed out to a 25-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Things didn't get any better for Alabama after that. The Crimson Tide could only muster one touchdown the rest of the way. On the other side of the ball, Nagle pitched in a third touchdown pass. The Cardinals capped off the game's scoring by harassing Alabama into a safety.
For Schnellenberger, who pressed his team the entire week to take a stance of arrogance against Alabama -- essentially refusing to accept its reputation -- the victory was a landmark. It proved to be the greatest achievement in Schnellenberger's era with the Cardinals.
The legendary coach had left Miami after leading the Hurricanes to the national championship with an 11-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory in 1983.
At Louisville, he started from scratch. It took him six seasons to reach a bowl game. But when it happened, it was as sweet as could be.
"We had to come so far and it took so long and it was so hard," Schnellenberger said after the game. "It was super. I'm proud of them."
For Alabama, meanwhile, it was an embarrassing moment -- the second-worst bowl loss in program history at the time. The Crimson Tide might have been motivated by the experience, as it went 11-1 and 13-0 the next two seasons.
The Cardinals went in the opposite direction, dropping to 2-9 the next season. Although Schnellenberger once again rebuilt the Cardinals into a competitive team, winning the Liberty Bowl in 1993 to go 9-3, he left Louisville after the 1994 season when the school joined Conference USA -- a move he felt immediately moved the Cardinals out of competition for a national championship.
"I didn't leave because of money," Schnellenberger said in 2012. "I wasn't looking to go anywhere until that president (Dr. Donald Swain) pulled that baloney and put us in that conference that I didn't want to be in. I wasn't going to coach in a conference where I didn't have a chance to compete for the national championship."
Louisville went on to have several great runs in the 2000s under the leadership of first Bobby Petrino and later Charlie Strong. But there's no question that the foundation of football excellence continued at Louisville began with Howard Schnellenberger.