Before They Were Pros: QB Teddy Bridgewater

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be answering questions throughout training camp, but before he was drafted he had an extensive interview with the media at the NFL Scouting Combine, ranging from his college days to his confidence to video games and, of course, the glove.

How has Coach Charlie Strong aided your development?
“Coach Strong, he played a huge role in just me becoming a pure pocket passer and just a pure quarterback. When I first arrived at the University of Louisville, I wasn’t starting. I was second on the depth chart. I told Coach Strong, ‘Hey, I want to play wide receiver just so I can get on the field.’ He told me, ‘No, hey, I recruited you as a quarterback. You’re going to play quarterback.’ That right there, it just meant a lot to me knowing that he didn’t just take the easy way out and satisfy me. It played a huge role in my success just from a pure pocket quarterback standpoint.”

Do you believe you’re the best quarterback in the draft and the Texans should draft you No. 1 overall?
“Yes, no doubt. I feel that I’m the best quarterback in this draft. I’m not just going to sit up here and say it. There’s obviously actions that have to back up these words, and I’m just confident in myself and my capability to be able to play this position. I’m just going to go out there and prove that I’m the best guy.”

What do you think it is that separates you from the other quarterbacks in this class?
“The biggest thing I think is my accuracy. This past season, I was able to complete 71 percent of my passes. My third-down passing completion percentage was pretty much off the charts, my pocket presence, I’m a competitor. Each day I go out there and I’m eager to learn, remain a student of the game, and I think that right there just separates me.”

What went into your decision to throw at your pro day instead of here?
“The biggest thing was just me being a perfectionist, and I just want everything to go right. Whether I’m taking a five-step drop and the guy’s not on top of his route at the time, I just want to have that chemistry with the guys. I tend to look at it from a pro standpoint. When you’re throwing in the offseason, you want to be with your guys to have that timing and that connection, so that was the biggest thing.”

You weighed in heavier than expected. How much weight did you put on since the end of the season and was it a major focus?
“Yes, sir. It was a huge focus. I put on about nine pounds. I was 205 pounds when I finished the season at the University of Louisville. I’ve been working hard with my eating habits, my weight room lifting and everything.”

A lot of analysts believe you’re the most NFL-ready quarterback, but Johnny Manziel is getting the most attention. Do you feel you’re under the radar and should be getting more attention?
“I actually don’t pay any attention to what’s going on right now. All I do is control what I can control and that’s how hard I work each day continuing to play at a consistent level, at a high level. I just control the things that I can.”

Does the fact that you played in a pro-style offense and other prospects didn’t give you an advantage?
“Yes. I just feel that especially that I played at the University of Louisville, it just prepared me for some of the things that an NFL quarterback has to do nowadays with making the checks at the line of scrimmage, sliding the protection, (identifying the middle linebacker), getting the offense in and out of the right plays, signaling the hot routes to the wide receivers. It shows how much trust that the coach had in me.”

What doubts do you think you might need to relieve?
“Hopefully I relieved all doubts with my size. I know that I still have more weight that I can put on. Each day I’m still going to work hard, continue to add even more weight.”

What does football mean to you?
“Football means everything to me. I started playing organized sports when I was about 5 years old, and from the first time I picked up a football, I told myself I want to go to the NFL. It’s a way for me to just relieve everything. I lay it all on the line each day I go
out there and play the game. I have such a passion for the game that I can’t even describe it.”

Is your mother your biggest inspiration?
“Yes, my mom, she’s a huge inspiration to not only my life, but to my athletic career because there came a point in time where I wanted to give up sports. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was at the age of 14 and I was ready to give up sports just to take care of her because I felt that that was my purpose in life. God had called on me to stop doing what I’m doing to take care of her, but she told me that, ‘God has blessed you with your talents. Use them to the best of your ability.’ That’s why each day I step on that field, nothing bothers me because I know that what she went through, nothing compares to that.”

When you look at quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick and what they’ve done in the NFL, what kind of confidence does that give you?
“It gives me a ton of confidence because those guys have had success early in their careers, and that just shows me that, hey, you don’t have to wait five years down the road. You can come into this league and make an immediate impact not only to your team but to the National
Football League. That right there just speaks volumes.”

Your hand size has been a question. How do you convince teams that your hand is big enough?
“Well, simply by just completing the football. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter about your hand size. The only thing that matters is the (ball) getting completed to wide receivers, and I feel that with my accuracy, my arm strength, my decision-making, the hand size shouldn’t be a factor.”

Did you always wear gloves?
“No, sir. I started wearing gloves when I arrived at the University of Louisville.”

Did wear gloves every game?
“Yes, sir.”

Have you had much interaction with Johnny Manziel and what do you think of him?
“Johnny, he’s my guy. I met Johnny last summer out in Oregon for one of the Elite 11 events. We were out there. We were mentors, and that was our first time meeting. Ever since then, our relationship has clicked. Around here, Johnny and I, we’ve been talking. We’ve been discussing things about future plans and college football. Whenever you get around these guys, you love to talk about what you did in the past and everything. Johnny, he’s a great guy.”

Some people say you’re obsessed with football and you don’t think about anything else. Is that accurate?
“Yes. I eat, sleep and breathe football. There’s not a moment that goes by that I’m not thinking about football, whether it’s I’m playing a game, practicing, watching film, even on the video game. A lot of people ask me what do I do on the video game. I call it taking virtual reps. Each day, I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to outwork my opponent, outsmart my opponent and just try to be the best quarterback that I can be.”

Do you have a playing weight you want to reach or have teams talked to you about that?
“No one has told me what level they want to see me at. But at one point in my career when I was at the University of Louisville, I was up to 222 pounds. I had an oral procedure done, and it set me back. I couldn’t eat for two months, and that was a period when I lost most of my weight. So I just want to get back to that range, 220, 225 range, and just feel good.”

When was the weight loss?
“My sophomore year at the University of Louisville.”

Do you have a hard time putting on weight?
“Not at all. I just have to get back adjusted to eating the right foods and everything and controlling my eating habits.”

In video games, do you create yourself on Madden?
“I just play with the teams that are on the game. There are some great quarterbacks. There are some outstanding quarterbacks in this league. I just pray that one day I’m good enough to be at those guys’ level. I just play the game with those guys. I try to copy some of the things that they do in real life and try to apply it to my game also. And even on the video game, I’m just a competitor, so the video games are so advanced nowadays that you see the defenses that you’ll face in real life on those video games. You’ll see offenses that teams are really running in the National Football League or in college football. You just can apply it to the video games, apply it to the way I play and I just try to get better each day.”

What quarterback do you model your game after?
“I try to take something from each guy. Each guy in this league does outstanding things and each guy is different. I just try to take something from each guy whether it’s throwing mechanics, pocket presence, arch, and pace on the ball, just those little things.”

If you could be any quarterback in history, who would you be?
“I would have to go with my former University of Louisville native Johnny Unitas. No, I wasn’t around watching him play, but I’ve heard great things about him, and I just want to have a successful career, the type of career that he had.”

It took you awhile to decide to enter the draft. What went into that decision?
“I’ve always been a goal-oriented person and a goal-drive person, and
from the time I was being recruited out of high school, whatever coach that came to recruit me, I told him, ‘Hey, look, I want to be on the three-year plan. I want to become a starter as a freshman, be all-conference as a sophomore, graduate my junior year and be out the door. I just looked back and I weighed my options. I looked back and I asked myself, ‘Was I able to accomplish all of those goals?’ And as I look back, I was. I have my degree, a degree in sports administration from the University of Louisville. I was a three-year starter, won a BCS game and won conference player of the year. So as I looked back, I told myself that I accomplished everything that I wanted and it was time to go.”

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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