The thing about Teddy Bridgewater is that he has no fear.
Watch him get creamed by Florida’s Dominique Easley, surviving a knockout blow on his first play in the Sugar Bowl. Watch him get to his feet and complete a 25-yard pass to Eli Rogers for a first down on the next play. Watch him pick Florida apart.
Watch him play with ankle and wrist injuries while leading his University of Louisville football team to a come-from-behind 20-17 win over Rutgers in the final regular season game, completing 20 of 28 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns.
Watch his footwork during pre-game warm ups, all those moves, unbelievable at first, requiring second and third looks. An un-choreographed blend of the fox trot, the quick step, the ballet, and some yet to be named.
His specialness quickly became obvious after he relieved Will Stein in his first college football game against Kentucky two seasons ago. Rushed onto the field in the second quarter, immediately changing the complexion of the game and the direction of the University of Louisville football program.
Respectable numbers for a surprising debut, but even more memorable was the confidence, poise and accuracy. Bridgewater was ready to compete immediately.
Completing passes to four different receivers on the Cardinals’ last drive of the first half, the final one a 25-yarder to another true freshman DeVante Parker, giving UofL a 14-3 lead at the half. He could complete 10 of 18 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-17 win.
Since that game, he has made good on an additional 514 of 757 attempts for 6,491 yards and 105 touchdowns.
Brock Haud, an ESPN analyst, considers Bridgewater the best quarterback around:
“Teddy Bridgewater, if he would have come out in last year’s draft, he would have been a top-5 pick. I feel very confident saying that. You put on the tape, the progression, the tempo, the rhythm, the accuracy, the toughness of playing through a broken wrist and oh by the way, a Sugar Bowl against a Florida team that nobody saw Louisville beating if it wasn’t for him. He is a franchise quarterback. He is everything the NFL covets. Some of these other guys have some limitations physically. He has none. He’s my No. 1 quarterback.”
The biggest obstacle for Bridgewater and the Cardinals this season may be pass protection, or the lack thereof. In two seasons at Louisville, Bridgewater has been sacked 61 times, ninth-most in FBS. In the Cardinals final three games last season, Bridgewater was sacked 12 times, including five in the Sugar Bowl.
Mister Cobble, a six-foot, 330-pound defensive tackle at UK, obviously wants to keep Bridgewater back peddling on Saturday. Avery Williamson, a teammate at linebacker, says the Louisville quarterback “hasn’t seen any pressure in his face. That gives us an opportunity to see how he’s going to react when we do get pressure on him.”
That will be interesting if it happens. But if they’re expecting Bridgewater to get all panicky or jittery, the two UK seniors have learned much after competing against him three season.
There’s not a tiny trace of timidity in his DNA. He doesn’t know fear.