Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This is a big weekend for Teddy
Bridgewater. Obviously, it's a big weekend for every player who straps
on pads at the FBS level, but 99 percent of those players don't have the type
of spotlight on them that Bridgewater has.
Entering last season. Louisville's signal-caller was considered a solid
quarterback. He had thrown for 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns, while completing
64.5 percent of his passes in 2011.
In 2012 he dwarfed those numbers by completing 68.5 percent of his pass
attempts for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns. Bridgewater was also the driving
force behind Louisville's 11-2 record and a shocking 33-23 win over SEC power
Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
There is no more flying under the radar for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound
gunslinger this time around. Since the final seconds ticked off the clock in
the Super Dome, Bridgewater has been grouped among college football's elite.
His name has constantly been brought up when anyone mentions the 2013 Heisman
Trophy and is regarded as the top quarterback prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft.
A simple web search of the name 'Teddy Bridgewater' with the term 'NFL
Draft' yields pages of results. Often times clicking on those links will
bring up a list with his name sitting next to that No. 1 position.
Expectations have risen so high that earlier in the summer Bridgewater
took out a $10 million insurance policy to protect against the possible
missed financial opportunity should he be injured and subsequently go
It is quite a lot of hype for a 20-year-old quarterback, playing in a
conference considered the weakest of the automatic BCS qualifiers.
However, Bridgewater has been consistently grounded.
"Simple," Bridgewater said as he explained how he plans to remain
focused. "We'll remember what happened to us last year. Guys are older
and more mature. We have coaches that don't let us think that its all
That quotation illustrates how well Bridgewater has stood up to the
pressure that the added attention has created. He has said all the
right things during interviews and has shown no sign of regression
through offseason camps and practices.
"It was the hardest camp since I've been here," Bridgewater said
at the close of fall camp earlier this week, but as always he didn't
focus on himself for long. "We worked very hard, but I think we have
made a lot progress."
Though there are clearly thousands of fans, writers and pundits that
are singing Bridgewater's praises, and deservedly so, his head coach
is, expectedly, one of his biggest believers.
"I think that Teddy is an amazing young man. If you look at him, just
watching him grow over the years, he's loaded with a ton of athletic
ability," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said.
Strong is as confident in Bridgewater's ability to deal with the
crushing pressure he will be feeling this season as he is in
Bridgewater's skills as a quarterback.
"I think that he can handle it. I think that he knows what's ahead of
him and what he has to get accomplished," Strong said.
What is perhaps most interesting about Bridgewater's rise to prominence
is that it has largely happened while he has been off the field.
Bridgewater obviously put up phenomenal numbers last season and was one
of the top quarterbacks in the country.
However, unlike Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel
before him, Bridgewater didn't rack up a ton of national awards last
season. The accolades will come in 2013 though, as long as the production is
A major reason why Bridgewater wasn't in the Heisman or All-America running
last season was because, up until the Sugar Bowl, he was regarded as a
talented quarterback in a lesser league. Unlike Manziel, Griffin and Newton,
Bridgewater wasn't battling nationally ranked teams most weeks.
Bridgewater showed just how skewed that thinking was however, against Florida.
He was poised in the pocket, completing 20-of-32 passes for 266 yards and a
pair of touchdowns against the Gators, a team that ranked fifth in the country
in total defense.
He is still in a weaker conference this year, so the margin for error
is still small, but he also won't be dismissed if he dominates once
again. In a way, Bridgewater really encapsulates the Louisville team
as a whole.
Like Bridgewater, Louisville has gone from a good team slighted for its
conference connections to one that is ranked in the top 10 and
considered one of the contenders for the BCS National Championship to begin
Going into this season there will be plenty of offensive weapons for
Bridgewater and Louisville to rely on. Wide receivers Devante Parker
(40 receptions, 744 yards, 10 TDs) and Damian Copeland (50 receptions,
628 yards, two TDs) had great rapport with Bridgewater last season. The
backfield is also stuffed with talented backs, including returning starter
Senorise Perry as well as former Auburn standout Michael Dyer.
However, the focus, as it has been for months, will be squarely on
On Sunday he finally gets a chance to go out and prove that all the build-up
and hoopla surrounding his name is deserved.
The Sports Network