For some, the journey to the NFL is merely a means an end for those who have won the genetic lottery. For Teddy Bridgewater, football is a form of expression and a tribute to the most influential person in his life, his mother.
“My mom she’s a huge inspiration, not only to my life but to my athletic career. There came a point in time where I wanted to give up sports. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer I was at the age of 14 and I was ready to give up sports just to take care of her.”
That’s when Bridgewater’s mother offered words of encouragement to him that he wouldn’t soon forget,
“My mom told me, ‘God blessed you with your talents, use them to the best of your ability.’ That’s why each day I step on that field, nothing bothers me because I know what she went through, and nothing compares to that.”
Nothing illustrated Bridgewater’s toughness, grit and determination more than his ability to maintain a high level of play after suffering a broken left wrist and high ankle sprain against UCONN. While still on the mend and unable to plant his back foot while throwing the football, he performed admirably in the Sugar Bowl. Bridgewater picked Florida’s vaunted defense apart, completing 20/32 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns in a Cardinal’s win.
When asked about how he was able to overcome the above mentioned injuries, Bridgewater said,
“I learned through my mother’s fight with cancer I can play through anything.”
It doesn’t seem that there should be any toughness or durability concerns at all regarding Bridgewater. However there are NFL teams that made it very clear that they have some doubts about his slight frame and ability to absorb hits at the next level. Bridgewater addressed NFL talent evaluator’s concerns about his weight at the NFL Combine.
“At one point I was actually up to 222 Lbs. I had an oral procedure done and I couldn’t eat for two months, which really set me back. I just want to get back to that range.”
Bridgewater played this past season at around 205 Lbs. but is now up to 214 Lbs., which is closer to what he would like to weigh upon entering the NFL.
While many question his game and think of reasons he might fail at the next level Bridgewater remains supremely confident in himself. When asked what separates him from the top quarterbacks in this draft, Bridgewater said,
“The biggest thing is my accuracy. This season I was able to complete 71% of my passes. My third down completion percentage was pretty much off the charts and my pocket presence.”
While Manziel, gets recognized for being a fierce competitor, Bridgewater wanted to make it known that he possesses that very same competitive fire.
“I’m a competitor. Each day I go out there and remain a student of the game and I think that is what separates me.”
Bridgewater also spoke at length about Charlie Strong’s part in his evolution from college freshman to potential first-round NFL draft pick.
“Charlie Strong played a huge role in getting me to be a better pocket passer and just a pure quarterback. When I first arrived at the University of Louisville I wasn’t starting, I was second on the depth chart. I told Coach Strong, I want to play wide receiver just so I can get on the field. He (coach Strong) told me, ‘No, I recruited you as a quarterback and you’re going to play quarterback.’ It meant a lot to me that he didn’t just take the easy way out.”
Bridgewater also credits his aptitude for the NFL game to Charlie Strong and the Louisville staff.
“The system that I played in at the University of Louisville prepared me for some of the things that NFL quarterbacks have to do like making checks at the line of scrimmage, sliding the protection, identifying the mike (linebacker), checking in and out of the right plays and signaling hot routes to wide receivers. It just shows how much trust the coaches had in me.”
Bridgewater’s college coaches and teammates quickly came to understand that he takes the game of football very seriously in fact he’s been described as being obsessive when it comes to the game. Bridgewater said,
“I eat sleep and breathe football. There isn’t a moment that goes by I’m not thinking about the game.”
He also mentioned a pastime that actually helps keep him mentally sharp; football related video games.
“I call it taking virtual reps. Everyday, I’m trying to outwork my opponent and outsmart my opponent and just try to be the best quarterback I can be.”
Many young men at this stage don’t know why they’re embarking upon a career in the NFL, but Bridgewater seems to have found his “why” quite a while ago.
“I started playing organized sports when I was about five-years-old. From the first time I picked up a football, I told myself I wanted to go to the NFL. It’s just a way for me to just leave everything. I lay it all on the line when I go out there and play the game. I have such a passion for the game that I can’t describe.”
When speaking about his biggest inspiration again, Bridgewater said,
“I feel like my purpose in life is to take care of my mother.”
Bridgewater is playing for a greater cause than riches and glory; he’s playing for his mother and her well being. He’s a very impressive young man with razor-sharp focus who will surely find success in the NFL. In his approach to the game, toughness and competitiveness, it’s evident that football is absolutely more than just a game to Teddy Bridgewater.
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