Bridgewater, a former All-American quarterback from Miami (FL) Northwestern, enrolled early at Louisville and participated in spring practice with the Cardinals, where he battled – and continues to battle - junior Will Stein for the starting quarterback job this season.
Whether Bridgewater emerges as Louisville's starting quarterback this season is uncertain, it's clear he made the right decision to play for Strong after de-committing from hometown Miami after a coaching change. Despite being away from home for the first time, Bridgewater completed 15 credit hours and made the Dean's List during his first semester at UofL.
"The transition process wasn't very tough and it wasn't a hard one," Bridgewater told InsideTheVille.com Tuesday afternoon during his first media interview at UofL. "I felt I was college ready when I was taking college courses in high school."
Time management is an acquired – and important – skill for new college students. Acquiring that skill in his first few weeks on campus proved key to Bridgewater's success in the classroom and on the field.
"It was helpful and very useful because we wouldn't leave each other behind," Bridgewater said. "If one had to be at this place at a certain time we would knock on each other's door and tell each other to get there."
Though Bridgewater and the rest of the Miami boys are establishing themselves as key players in Louisville resurgence under Strong, the former Army All-American made clear there's no South Beach-exclusive clique at UofL.
"Just because we're from Miami doesn't mean we don't interact with the whole team," Bridgewater said. "To have full team chemistry you can't just bond with a person because he's from your hometown. So we all branch out and bond with everyone."
Under Strong's direction, Clint Hurtt, Louisville's second-year recruiting coordinator and the 2011 National Recruiter of the Year, helped the Cardinals hit the mother-load in Dade-County last year. Though Bridgewater was the headliner of Louisville's 2011 recruiting class, the Cardinals also signed highly-regarded Miami prep standouts Reve (Northwestern), Gaines (Central), Gerod Holliman (Southridge), Andrew Johnson (Southridge), John Miller (Central) and Eli Rogers (Northwestern).
Bridgewater was the critical recruit for Strong last December. Once he committed, Rogers, an Under Armour All-American, Holliman, a U.S. Army All-American, and Johnson, one of the top cornerbacks in Florida, followed suit. So why did Bridgewater spurn Miami, LSU and others to play for Louisville?
"One thing that stood out after I did some research was how prestigious the university was," Bridgewater said. "That played a huge role in my decision. And so did the opportunity to play early."
Bridgewater not only paved the way for Rogers, Holliman, Johnson and the other former Miami prep stars to join his lead last year, he's also proving to be a good ambassador for the Cardinals again this year. Just last week, Louisville landed commitments from Miami (FL) Norland standouts Teko Powell and Brandon Snell, who happens to be Bridgewater's cousin.
What does Bridgewater tell the guys back home about playing for Louisville and Coach Strong? The truth, and that's important to make the best decisions for their futures.
"When I was getting recruited, I thought Louisville was just farms and horses everywhere," said Bridgewater. "But when you actually come to the city it's very nice. For those back home I just tell them to choose wisely and have no regrets."
Bridgewater doesn't have any regrets about his decision to play for Strong at Louisville.
"One thing [Strong] does that I believe really helps the team is that he interacts with the team," Bridgewater said. "He puts himself in the player's shoes and just tries to build a bond with everyone on the team."
Despite throwing for just 19 yards with two interceptions during the first half of UofL's spring game, Bridgewater came out strong in the second half, throwing for an 11-yard score while finishing 7 of 16 for 76 yards.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Bridgewater said he learned a lot about Mike Sanford's spread-offense this spring and looks forward to continuing to work hard this summer to prepare for his freshman season at Louisville.
"It was an honor to be here during the spring and I learned a lot," Bridgewater said. "Right now, the main thing I'm doing is trying to get bigger and stronger to prepare my body for the season. I've put on a large amount of pounds and I'm lifting a whole lot more than I did when I first came here. I feel [Pat Moorer] has a top-notch program and I feel like my conditioning has [made] big improvement."
While some members of Louisville's team went home after the semester break – Bridgewater said half the team is currently on campus -Bridgewater will remain in town all summer taking classes and preparing for the upcoming season with his teammates.