If a quarterback's heart is anywhere near as important as his arm, the Vikings found a good one at the end of the first round.
Teddy Bridgewater's official NFL profile describes him as a rifle-armed quarterback, but his heart was a bigger talking point after the Minnesota Vikings picked him off with the final selection in the first round – the third straight year the Vikings have moved back into the end of the first round.
Bridgewater's accuracy was questioned in the predraft process when he had a lousy pro day. His leadership and knees were called into question, too, as the minutia and over-analysis of the modern-day draftniks kicked into overdrive. The mechanics of his heart were also tested by the Vikings after they found an irregularity in his NFL Scouting Combine medical tests. They brought him back to Minnesota to be sure and were convinced with additional testing that everything was fine.
The good-natured quarterback even joked to head coach Mike Zimmer that his heart was too big. His mother, Rose Murphy, found that out time and again as she battled breast cancer while Teddy was at Northwestern High School in Miami and later at Louisville.
Murphy said she used to have to carry Bridgewater's birth certificate around to youth sports events because he was that much taller and bigger than the other kids his age. As he grew up, he showed his heart truly is big, too.
In one of the videos below, Murphy said her son looked at her in disbelief when she told him she had breast cancer. He was in eighth grade, trying to process a life-altering and potentially life-ending event. "Disbelief" is a reaction that millions of boys have every year as their mother's lives are put in jeopardy at a time when the sons are passing from adolescence in manhood.
At that age, Bridgewater wasn't really sure what it all meant. As more treatments were executed, he found out the reality of the disease. He considered quitting football early in his high school career, telling ESPN he felt compelled to "be her Superman, the one she never had."
Murphy would have none of that. She didn't want him to quit, just like she wasn't going to give up on beating cancer.
"Seeing how strong she was just gave him strength," Bridgewater's former coach, Charlie Strong, said.
Likewise, Murphy gathered strength from seeing her son continue to play at a high level, calling him her hero.
Bridgewater took over the starting quarterback job in his fourth game at Louisville and won 27 of 36 games, including 12 last year, which was tied for the most wins in Louisville football history.
Bridgewater threw for 9,817 yards and 12 touchdowns, both third-most in school history. He completed a school-record 68.39 percent of his passes and had just 24 interceptions in 1,142 career pass attempts, saying protecting the football is one of a quarterback's most important duties.
He showed toughness and resolve throughout his career. As a sophomore, he started the first 11 games, but a fractured wrist and bum ankle kept him on the sidelines for the start of the regular season finale vs. Rutgers. He entered the game to complete 20 of 28 passes and rally the Cardinals to a 20-17 victory and get them into a bowl game against Florida.
He finished his Louisville career with a 37-9 record, two conference titles and three bowl appearances. He had five second-half comebacks against nationally ranked teams and threw for more than 300 yards in 13 games and 400 yards in three games.
Bridgewater left Louisville early thinking he would be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but his agent, Kennard McGuire, warned him about the treachery of his assumption. He may have been listed in mock drafts in January as the No. 1 pick, but a poor pro day and plenty of analysis later and he found himself still undrafted as the last pick of the first round was on the clock. The Vikings moved up, knowing all about his physical skills from their workouts with him and all about the strength he gathered from his mother.
Murphy impressed Spielman to no end when she, Bridgewater, Spielman and others dined together.
"His mother is a very unique individual," Spielman said. "… She works directly with kids whose mothers have had breast cancer. We were down at the pro day, the second one that we went and worked him out, and I asked him, ‘Is your mom coming over to watch?' and he said, ‘No, it's more important, one of the kids that she was working with whose mother had breast cancer had passed away and she thought it was more important to go that funeral.'
"I remember sitting at dinner and talking to his mother, who has worked for the transportation department for the school system down in Miami and she's been there for 26 years and I asked her, ‘Your son is going to get drafted here and you're going to get a chance to retire,' and she said, ‘I'm not retiring. I want to get my 30 years in. That's what I said I was going to do, that's what I'm going to do.' Those type of things – and Teddy is just like that – those things are just so unique on how he was brought up and what a great job his mother has done."
It's been a long, trying test for Bridgewater. Seven years ago, he was an eighth-grader finding out his only active parent had breast cancer. It was time to pay her back for all her support four days before Mother's Day. Cadillac heard Bridgewater's story and wanted to help.
Bridgewater saw an Escalade on his way to practice one day when he was 9 years old and thought then that he would buy her a pink Escalade when he made it to the NFL. He didn't have to. Cadillac donated it as part of an ad campaign with Spike Lee.
In December, Bridgewater graduated after three years with a degree in Sport Administration. Sometime in the next few months he is expected to sign a contract worth in excess of $7 million. By the end of the year, he could be a starter in the NFL. But he won't ever forget the road he traveled from Miami to Louisville to Minnesota, all the while persevering for his mother and winning ballgame after ballgame.
"He's a winner at every level," Zimmer said, referring to Bridgewater's on-field acumen.
But, in life, Bridgewater is certainly proving that again.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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