Bobby Petrino has completely remade himself as a football coach.

Following Saturday's dismantling of Florida State, No. 3 Louisville is basking in the afterglow of what is being called its biggest game ever. Its quarterback, Lamar Jackson, might be the best player in the country.

The buy-in is overwhelming. The Cardinals received first-place votes in the AP Top 25 for the second time ever and first time in 11 years.

Yes, Petrino -- in his second go-round at Louisville -- is proving once again he can coach his ass off. But that wasn't really the question, was it?

"Forget the football coach," athletic director Tom Jurich said. "He remade himself as a person."

On that, we will mostly have to take Jurich's word. It's been 32 months since Jurich put his reputation on the line by hiring back Petrino. Arkansas' former coach had just disgraced himself, his family and the Razorbacks after a 2012 affair with a subordinate made headlines -- equal parts TMZ and Outside the Lines.

It also turned a lot of administrators' stomachs. The dude could always coach, but who wanted the baggage?

What the world needed to see was a living, breathing person who cared for something besides himself.

"We spent three-and-a-half hours talking," Jurich recalled of his giving consideration to bringing back Petrino two years ago. "He came up from Arkansas. Our first conversation was not about football. It was about life.

"It was a hard conversation."

Petrino was told he had to change: treat people better, be more of a human being. That had to be a very hard conversation.

"When I was here before, I think I was young and inexperienced -- just driven," Petrino admitted to CBS Sports this week. "Maybe I didn't have a good idea of everything else going around. Maybe too focused and didn't enjoy it as much as I need to."

We don't necessarily need good guys as our coaching heroes. Vince Lombardi could be a jerk. George O'Leary was hard to play for long before a UCF player died on his watch. Nick Saban can be a flat-out buzz kill at his weekly press conferences.

But America is usually willing to overlook character flaws if the winning percentage is high enough. Petrino had that locked down, going 41-9 from 2003-06 and basically putting Louisville on the college football map. He is 20-9 upon his return.

That's why it's so easy to call Saturday perhaps the biggest win for both Louisville and Petrino. The Cardinals are playing as if there is a reciprocal relationship with their coach instead of a one-way dictatorship.

"I'm trying to relax a little bit more, enjoy it a littler bit more," Petrino said. "Enjoy the good times, not get so down on the bad times. I think my relationship with the players is different."

Remade as a person, perhaps, but let's not forget where Louisville is these days and how it got there.

"I'm very biased," Jurich said. "There's no better football coach in America. I love Urban Meyer. He's brilliant. Coach Saban is brilliant. This is a very small conversation."

That's the underlying dichotomy, isn't it? Petrino The Coach vs. Petrino The Enigma. Petrino, the leader of men who lied to his then-boss about his affair at Arkansas.

Petrino, the Louisville coach who in 2003 interviewed at Auburn behind the backs of Jurich and his former Auburn boss, Tommy Tuberville.

Petrino, the Atlanta Falcons coach who resigned with three games left in his only NFL season by posting a letter to his players on the lockerroom door.

Consider the tenure of his Louisville replacement in 2007. Steve Kragthorpe was basically undermined by character issues on the team. Kragthorpe had to get rid of more than 20 of Petrino's former players. He was also fired after three seasons.

"We had to clear out a lot of discipline issues," Jurich said at the time, "and our numbers suffered ... That's a big hit for anybody to take."

So if we're going to credit Petrino for his second-act success, we also must consider the shape in which he left Louisville. Less than 12 months after signing a 10-year contract in 2006, he bolted for the Falcons.

And if we're going to rip Petrino, we have to also admit Louisville might not be in the ACC without the momentum he created.

Taken as a whole, the road ahead seems wide open for the Cardinals.

"I was on record, when he took Louisville, [saying] he'll win a national championship there," said Western Kentucky AD Todd Stewart, Petrino's boss between his stop at Arkansas and return to Louisville.

A similar road was widening at Arkansas in 2012 until Petrino crashed that motorcycle carrying his mistress outside of Fayetteville on Highway 16. Only now, five seasons later, does it look like the Hogs are digging out from the upheaval.

Petrino has basically run out on three teams (Louisville, Arkansas, Atlanta) when no one doubted his ability to coach those teams.

How long before a 55-year-old veteran coach with at least 10 years of shelf life remaining reverts to his old self at Louisville Part II?

"Was it a tough call [to bring him back]?" Jurich asked rhetorically. "It was a tough call. But I felt it was the right thing to do.

"He owned everything [he did at Arkansas]. He didn't point any fingers. It was self-inflicted. That was something that I was so impressed with."

Before making that momentous call, Jurich needed his decision to be reinforced. ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen called in an endorsement. Mortensen's son, Alex, had played for Petrino at Arkansas.

"I know Chris real well," Petrino said. "I didn't know about that."

Eric Wood played at Louisville from 2006-08. A freshman All-American under Petrino, Wood eventually became a first-round draft pick. He was asked his opinion, too.

"They called me and asked if they should bring him back," said Wood, now a Buffalo Bills center. "It was a bold move by Tom to bring him back.

"He was demanding day in and day out. I remember a practice where he thought I could have done better. He called me. He did it nice but he told me to step it up."

The biggest endorsement for Petrino's character continues to be his marriage. He and wife Becky remain together. Jurich revels in seeing the Petrino's driveway looking like "a used car lot."

"The house is always full," Jurich said. "I knew he was a different person. I just loved to see how he and his family have bonded, how his grandkids have bonded."

Oh yes, the grandkids. There are three of them all age 5 and under. Former assistant Jeff Brohm said Petrino would "melt" when the grandchildren came to practice.

"That's my stress relief right there," Petrino said. "There's nothing like hanging out with those guys."

Brohm is now the coach at Western Kentucky having replaced Petrino who brought him as offensive coordinator in 2013. All sides went into Petrino's one-year stay in Bowling Green, Kentucky, with eyes wide open.

"He was truly remorseful. He owned it. He took responsibility for it," Western Kentucky AD Todd Stewart said. "[He said] he would have a better understanding of working with players, coaching the person in addition to coaching the player."

Stewart is proud to say the school actually made money off the hiring. Petrino was paid $850,000. But given Petrino's wanderlust, Stewart also included a $1.2 million buyout. The $350,000 difference was immediately paid when Louisville came calling.

Not enough has been made of what Petrino left behind at Western Kentucky -- basically the best run of excellence in the program's history.

Brohm is in his third season. Western Kentucky is coming off a 12-2 campaign in which the Hilltoppers finished ranked for the first time. They are 19-2 in their last 21 games with losses only to Alabama and LSU on the road.

The Stewarts and the Petrinos remain good friends. Bobby invited Todd and his wife up for the Kentucky Derby last year. They may hang out again next year.

"The time I was around him, he was very caring," Stewart said. "It's nice to see things turn around the way they have."

Then, considering the current condition of Louisville, Western Kentucky and the remade Bobby Petrino, Stewart had another thought.

"I'd be lying to you [if I thought] it would turn out this way," he said.