Forced to perform under intense pressure, quarterbacks must possess consistency and composure in order to lead their team to victory. University of Louisville quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Will Stein welcome this responsibility, viewing it not as a burden but as an opportunity to showcase the product of their hard work.
Since stepping in for an injured Will Stein last year in the game against Kentucky, sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has continued to exceed expectations and impress coaches and teammates with his leadership.
His outstanding talent and ability to command the team have landed him the position of the University of Louisville’s starting quarterback.
Throwing 2,129 yards and earning 14 touchdowns in 2011, the 6’3,” 218 lb star led the Cardinals to the Belk Bowl, where they faced North Carolina State University. Equipped with a tremendous arm, Bridgewater threw a touchdown pass in nine of last season’s games, including his career-high three touchdowns against the University of South Florida. He threw for over 200 yards in four games, reaching a career-high 274 yards in the Belk Bowl.
These accomplishments did not go unnoticed; Bridgewater was selected as the Big East Rookie of the Year and named a CBSSports.com, Sporting News and Fox SportsNext Freshman All-American in 2011.
One of the most distinguishing features of Teddy Bridgewater is his age. Last year he became the first true freshman quarterback to see action since Brian Brohm in 2004; additionally, he remains the first true freshman to start at the position since Stu Stram in 1976.
Although he earned the chance to start in collegiate football at such a young age, the attention has not inflated his ego.
“He’s dealt with it very well,” said head coach Charlie Strong. “He’s very mature for his age.”
“It was the most humbling experience ever,” Bridgewater added. “You come into a game as a freshman thinking you can throw it around the ballpark. But reality sets in and it just brought me back down to earth.”
Bridgewater explained that he does not settle for the success he has already achieved; instead, he strives to continue to learn and improve his play.
“You have to remain a student of the game,” he said. “You can’t think you know everything. That’s the biggest way to handle the spotlight.”
Since entering the team in 2011, Bridgewater has played a crucial role in cultivating strong team chemistry in practice as well as during the games.
“Right now, we’re practicing very well,” said sophomore wide receiver Eli Rogers. “The connection from last year to this year is even better because both [Bridgewater and I] have a better understanding of defenses this year. Once you have that feel with your quarterback, you’ll just know where to sit it down in the zone defenses and beat coverages better… Teddy is a mastermind.”
The chemistry between Rogers and Bridgewater developed even before U of L, as the two played football together at Northwestern High School in Miami, Florida. Bridgewater reflected upon his high school football experience, acknowledging that the level of intensity and competition helped him progress into the capable player he has become today.
“Every Friday night you go into the game facing some of the top teams in the state of Florida,” he said of his career at Northwestern High School. “It just helped prepare me being able to compete against some of the best players in the country.”
Rogers revealed that team chemistry extends far beyond just he and Bridgewater.
“Before the play starts, I know where the ball is going and if he’s coming to me or not,” said Rogers. “That’s just a chemistry the whole receiving corps has with the quarterback.”
Serving as a backup to Bridgewater, senior quarterback Will Stein faced a debilitating shoulder injury after being tackled in the second quarter of the UK game last season. The 5’ 10” Trinity High School graduate possesses a reputation as an enthusiastic leader and remained U of L’s starting quarterback in 2011 before hurting his shoulder.
Despite his injury, Stein completed 52-of-84 passes last season, throwing 620 yards and completing five touchdowns.
His experience and ability to lead will qualify him as a solid backup to Bridgewater in the 2012 season.
Photo: Deepa Singh/The Louisville Cardinal