The following appears in this week's edition of The Voice-Tribune
Congratulations on your recent addition of Teddy Bridgewater, the quarterback so many people are already referring to as the future of your franchise. That's probably all he is to you at this moment, and that's cool, I get it, but as someone who has followed Teddy closely for the better part of the last four years, I feel like it's my duty to try and convey to you why he means so much to the folks around here.
You may think this is a tad over-the-top, but you have to understand that Louisville fans have seen the way Teddy has been treated since he graduated and left the city, and it's been pretty unsettling. People have criticized his body and his game in a manner the likes of which I've never seen before. They've called him everything from "too boring" to a "thug," and consistently questioned his ability to "be the face of a franchise."
Let's focus on that for a second. What exactly constitutes being the "face of a franchise" in the NFL today? Do you have to be rude? Do you have to get caught partying too hard and follow that up with a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" media session that everyone thinks is adorable? Do you have to dress like a mortician from old Western movies and take on the persona of a half-dead, half-human man who draws strength from an urn and carries defeated opponents away in a body bag? When did the NFL become the WWF (or WWE, or whatever)?
For the past three years, Teddy Bridgewater has been "the face" of Louisville football, and it worked out pretty well for all parties involved. He was kind to everyone he interacted with, he was respectful and professional with the media, he was never involved with anything resembling trouble, and he won lots and lots of football games. In an era where star football players embarrassing their programs or franchises has become more the norm than the exception, Teddy Bridgewater never did anything but make his Louisville fans, coaches and teammates overwhelmingly proud to call him one of their own.
Now I'm not sure how much you know about the history of Louisville football, but I'll assume you're at least somewhat aware that the Cardinals have experienced some serious success in recent years. While it would be unfair to give your new player the full credit for those accomplishments, it would be equally unjust to claim these achievements would have still taken place had Randy Shannon not been fired and Teddy Bridgewater wound up honoring his original commitment to the University of Miami.
When Bridgewater arrived on the UofL campus in 2010, the Cardinals had just wrapped up a fourth straight season in which they'd lost at least six games. When he left three years later, Louisville had just produced back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins for the first time in program history, and won their third bowl game in four years.
In three seasons, Teddy led Louisville to a 30-9 overall record, two conference championships, two seasons with more than 10 wins and a pair of bowl victories over perennial powerhouses Florida and Miami. He heads to the NFL as UofL's all-time leader in completion percentage (68.4 percent) and passing efficiency, and he owns the Cardinal record for passing touchdowns in a single season (31). Despite playing one year less than the guys ahead of him, Bridgewater also ranks third at the school in career touchdowns and third in career passing yards. The fact that he "has small knees" or that "his core doesn't give off enough energy when he throws" (both ACTUAL complaints made over the past month) changes none of these numbers or accomplishments.
Unlike most superstars, non-superstars and pretty much every average university student, Bridgewater didn't spend his college weekends at clubs or house parties. He spent them studying film or, if he really wanted to get crazy, playing video games with friends. While that sounds like a media-made story, there are literally dozens of teammates and UofL students who will back it up. Before he ever stepped foot on a college campus, Teddy had a very clear image of how he wanted his time at Louisville to go, and he wasn't going to allow anything to get in the way of that image becoming a reality. That same level of focus and commitment is now making its way to Minneapolis.
The conference championships were great, the record-breaking was unforgettable, and the Sugar Bowl win over Florida was the biggest in the history of Louisville football, but what I'll always cherish most about Teddy is this: for three years, he made me feel overwhelmingly proud to be a supporter of the team he suited up for. From his on-field ability to his inspiring relationship with his mother to his perpetual willingness to visit children both in school and in hospitals, it was a privilege to follow Teddy and be able to say "that guy plays for my team." Now that privilege is yours. Congratulations.