This Sunday at 4:25 p.m. EST, the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens will kick off in an NFL week 4 regular season game. For NFL fans around the country, this is just another game where they will be focused on who from their fantasy team is playing. For fans of the Louisville Cardinals, this game will be significant in a much different way. Two of the best to ever play football for the University of Louisville will be leading their teams against each other as starting quarterbacks, the most important position in professional sports. Teddy Bridgewater for the Broncos. Lamar Jackson for the Ravens. The game will be shown here in Louisville on CBS. Are you ready?
Don’t come here and expect a preview of the actual game from a team perspective of the Broncos and Ravens. This is all about celebrating and honoring two of our all-time favorites: Teddy and Lamar. I want to go back and re-live some of their college moments for the Cards and then get caught up on their careers thus far in the NFL as well. I’ll try to not make it a novel. No promises. These two guys are pretty good.
When you ask UofL fans to name their five favorite quarterbacks to ever play for Louisville, you are most likely going to see these two on that list, quite possibly at #1 and #2. Teddy and Lamar meant so much to the program in different ways and left legacies that will never be forgotten. One helped revive the program at a time where it was needed to get into the ACC. One brought the first Heisman to campus. Both impacts go beyond anything I can put into words. My only hope in writing this is that I do justice to these two incredible former Cards. It’s the least I can do, but it’s also the most challenging. I have never felt pressure when writing a post until this one. That’s how much these two guys mean to the school and team that I love. I want to do right by them.
Let’s go back to when these guys were starting every Saturday on Floyd Street and work our way to where we are now…
To understand the impact that Teddy had on this football program, we must go back in time a little bit. It will sting, but it has to be done.
After winning the Orange Bowl in the 2006 season, Louisville would then go 6-6, 5-7, and 4-8 in the next three seasons. Things were…not good. Enter Charlie Strong on December 9, 2009. The Cards go 6-6 in the regular season and are on their way to face Southern Miss in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl on December 21, 2010. But something happens on December 20th that would change the program. Teddy Bridgewater (and Eli Rogers) spurns his hometown Miami Hurricanes (after they fire Randy Shannon) and commits to play for the University of Louisville.
I still remember being in the car on the way down to the bowl game and getting the text that they had committed. It was the beginning of an incredible trip. You would see other Louisville fans in St. Petersburg for the game and the buzz was all about Teddy Bridgewater. We knew we had a special talent on the way. We had no idea how special of a person we had on the way.
Louisville opened the 2011 season at home against Murray State. Will Stein won the job as the starting quarterback to open the season. With the Cards leading 21-0, Teddy made his much-anticipated debut. We could not wait to see what this phenom was going to do. False start. False start. Delay of game. Two run plays in a row. Interception. Teddy finishes the game 0/1 with one interception. It could only get better from here, right? Right. It got better.
Two weeks later in Lexington, Teddy comes in after Will Stein gets hurt and he leads the Cards to victory over the Cats 24-17 after he goes 10/18 for 106 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. And just like that, the Teddy era at Louisville was off and running. Louisville again finishes 7-6 with a bowl trip.
The 2012 season was one we will never forget as it finished with Teddy playing on a bum ankle and a broken wrist to defeat Rutgers on the road 20-17 and earn a shot at the Sugar Bowl against #3 Florida. But let’s back up just a minute…something else happened in November of 2012, actually the day before the Rutgers game. Louisville was invited to join the ACC. Now it helped that all of our sports were competitive, but we know that football drives conference realignment and it was huge that Charlie Strong and Teddy Bridgewater had this program back on the rise. Regardless of the success of our other sports, do we get into the ACC without Teddy Bridgewater? Man, how different things could have been for us. We could have been in purgatory like UConn or Cincinnati. UConn might be able to compete in 6A in the KHSAA and Cincinnati is just now finding their way into a makeshift Big 12 conference. Thank you, Teddy.
Back to the Sugar Bowl. We know how that went. Laid out on the first play from scrimmage. Game on. Teddy leads the Cards to a 33-23 win over the Gators in a game that felt more like it was 53-23. He brings us arguably the biggest win in school history and a final record of 11-2. Louisville fans celebrate a win over the Florida Gators on Bourbon Street. Life is good.
In 2013, we finish 12-1 and hammer Miami 36-9 in Teddy’s last game as a Cardinal. All he did was go 35/45 for 447 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. The end of an era. Charlie goes to Texas. Louisville goes to the ACC. Teddy goes to the NFL.
Heisman. Enough said.
Alright we can say more. Much like Teddy spurned Miami, Lamar turned down the Florida Gators to come to Louisville in 2015. Also like Teddy, Lamar got to play in his first college game. This one was in Atlanta against Auburn. And AGAIN like Teddy, Lamar’s first pass of his career was an interception. Wild how that worked out.
Lamar would rotate with Kyle Bolin all season as the starter. It would eventually become clear that Lamar had to be the guy, as we knew he was the future. Bolin struggled in the last regular season game against Kentucky, so Lamar was thrown in the game. He would pass for 130 yards and rush for 186 yards and be responsible for three touchdowns in the 38-24 victory after being down 21-0 in the first quarter. He showed the world a glimpse of things to come against Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl to end his freshman season. That glimpse was 227 yards passing and 226 yards rushing for four total touchdowns in the 27-21 win over the Aggies.
The 2016 season begins with Lamar accounting for EIGHT TOUCHDOWNS IN THE FIRST HALF against Charlotte. From there, the Heisman campaign was on. Two weeks later, the Heisman buzz picks up some national attention after blasting Florida State 63-20 and having five touchdowns total.
We know how the rest of the season went. You don’t need a game-by-game breakdown. And you know this, but just as a reminder…Lamar finished with 3,543 yards passing and 30 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He rushed for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns. Those numbers are just ridiculous no matter how many times you see them. Video game numbers as a sophomore.
As we all know, this season resulted in Lamar Jackson winning the Heisman Trophy, something that was unheard of if you were attending games at Old Cardinal Stadium way back in the day. The thought of a Louisville player winning the Heisman was just not even possible. In the discussion? I mean Brian Brohm, Michael Bush, and even Dave Ragone were mentioned on some lists in the preseason when several are named as players to watch. But to actually win the award? The University of Louisville has a Heisman Trophy winner, and no one can ever take that away from us. Thank you, Lamar.
The only thing he did in 2017 was pass (3,660) and rush (1,601) for more yards than he did in 2016. Could have won the Heisman again. Probably should have.
Buckle up. Let’s just summarize Teddy’s time in the league. The guy has been through it. He was selected #32 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He began the season as the backup QB but would eventually take over the starting job and end up making the All-Rookie Team.
The 2015 season would see Teddy lead the Vikings to the playoffs and be named to the Pro Bowl. After that, things took a turn. During practice in August of 2016, Teddy tore his ACL and suffered a dislocated knee joint and other structural damage. He would miss the entire 2016 season and almost all of the 2017 season before coming into the game in week 15 to throw two passes. The injury was supposed to keep him out for 2016 and 2017. The injury lost to Teddy.
Teddy signed with the Jets in 2018 before being traded to the Saints in that same year. He backed up Drew Brees for two seasons before signing with the Panthers in 2020 as the starting quarterback.
In April of 2021, Teddy was traded to the Denver Broncos for a sixth-round pick. He has his team sitting at 3-0 and is completing 76.8% of his passes, good for second in the entire league. He has thrown four touchdowns with no interceptions.
Some people are surprised. Louisville fans are not.
Lamar was drafted in 2018 with the #32 overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens. That’s right. Both he and Teddy were selected with the last pick in the first round. After the Ravens were finally able to unload Joe Flacco following Lamar’s rookie season, it was then his time to shine.
Remember Lamar at UofL? Back and forth with a veteran QB in his first season. Heisman in his second season. NFL…back and forth with a veteran QB in his first season. MVP in his second season. MVP of the entire NFL over guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes. He won the MVP over everyone else in the league. In his SECOND season! He threw for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns with only six interceptions. He rushed for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns. People said his game would not work at this level. People were wrong. Some people are still saying that. They are still wrong.
Lamar has the Ravens sitting at 2-1 on the season. They have a win over Mahomes and the Chiefs. They needed him to drive them down the field last week to beat the Lions, which he did. Well, sort of. He drove long enough for Justin Tucker to kick a 392-yard field goal. Good enough.
Some people are surprised. Louisville fans are not.
If you made it this far, a sincere thank you. After two hours of writing this, I almost scrapped it all because I felt there were too many stats and I was just recapping careers that you clearly already know about. I wondered if it was overkill and if anyone cared to read through it all. But then I remembered who I was writing about. How could I write about Teddy and Lamar and keep it short? How is that possible? I would be doing both a disservice. So I just rolled with it. Hopefully it has been worth your time.
Sunday will be special. Two guys that will be fan-favorites until the end of time for the University of Louisville squaring off against each other. Two guys from Florida. Does Lamar even know about Louisville if Teddy doesn’t go there and do what he did? Who knows?
You can break down UofL football in many different eras, whether that be by coaches or just different stages of your life. Two of the most fun eras or times for me personally are the Charlie Strong years with Teddy and then that 2016 season with Lamar. Side note: nothing will top 2006 for me, but those two times are right behind that one season.
Teddy and Lamar were incredible on the field at UofL. They brought the program to new heights. ACC. Heisman. They were incredible off the field while here as well. In the NFL, while he has had some bad luck, Teddy has had a very nice career and I don’t think anyone deserves success more than that guy. Lamar has clearly had success at the NFL level. And both guys continue to represent the University of Louisville in the best way possible. We are so proud to say they played for our team because of both their talent and their character.
Some people will cheer for Teddy. Some will cheer for Lamar. Some will cheer for a tie because that is actually a possibility. What we all need to do is just recognize how amazing these guys are and how lucky we were to watch them play for Louisville. Celebrate these two. Enjoy the game. It could be the only time we ever see Teddy Bridgewater vs Lamar Jackson. No matter who wins the game, we all win for being fans of those guys.
Go Cards…Go Krogering…Go Teddy…Go Lamar