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Bridgewater Continues Louisville’s QB Legacy

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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Since the 1996 season, seven former Louisville quarterbacks – Browning Nagle, Jeff Brohm, Chris Redman, Dave Ragone, Stefan Lefors, Brian Brohm and Hunter Cantwell – have suited up for an NFL franchise.

"He’s proven that he can perform in the pocket, and he’s also proven that when the pocket breaks down that he can make plays and make things happen. There’s really nothing that he can’t do.”
~Former Louisville QB Brian Brohm

This story was originally published in January 2014.

The aspect of college football which separates it from all other sports is the pageantry and traditions associated with its member institutions.

As Louisville prepares to enter the Atlantic Coast Conference for the start of the 2014 season, fans across the league are eager to learn of the traditions which make the Cardinals unique.

From the “Card March” two hours prior to kickoff, to exiting the Howard Schnellenberger Complex to touch the statue of Johnny Unitas before running onto the field, Louisville is a program which is as proud as any when it comes to its football team.

Louisville’s greatest gridiron tradition, however, is likely one which has been lost on the average college football fan.

Despite not generally being noted as one of the perennial powers in the sport, Louisville has a tradition for producing outstanding quarterbacks that is matched by few.

Starting with the legendary Johnny Unitas back in 1956, the Cardinals have placed double-digit signal callers in the NFL throughout the history of the program.

Unitas, a ten-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, certainly has the most name recognition of any Louisville quarterback in history, but the Cardinals’ reputation for placing signal callers in the NFL has really started to pick up steam in the last couple of decades.

Since the 1996 season, seven former Louisville quarterbacks – Browning Nagle, Jeff Brohm, Chris Redman, Dave Ragone, Stefan Lefors, Brian Brohm and Hunter Cantwell – have suited up for an NFL franchise.

“I’m very honored to be mentioned as one of the top quarterbacks who have played at Louisville,” Lefors commented on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. “It’s been a great place for quarterbacks. It’s just nice to see where Louisville is now when it comes to producing quality quarterbacks.”

As we are now mere months away from the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cardinals’ next quarterback prospect almost assuredly will be the first quarterback in program history to be drafted in the first round.

In fact, he very well may be the first overall selection by the Houston Texans.

Teddy Bridgewater, who was a three-year starter under center for powerhouse Miami Northwestern High School in Florida, spurned offers from traditional powers Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU and Miami in order to play for Charlie Strong in the Bluegrass State. Comparing himself to the collegiate version of Vince Young, it is needless to say that much was expected out of Bridgewater from the moment he stepped on campus.

Tabbed as the player who would be responsible for elevating Louisville’s stature on the national scene, it took Bridgewater all of two games to become the full-time starter. Suffering through a mild case of the expected ups and downs which come along with starting as a true freshman, Bridgewater actually acquitted himself rather nicely in his first season of competition. He would ultimately complete 64.5 percent of his passing attempts for 2,129 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 picks in leading the Cardinals to their first winning regular season in four years.

His production would only continue to increase over the next two seasons, as he led Louisville to back-to-back seasons of at least 11 wins for the first time in school history. In his final two seasons in college, Bridgewater would throw for 7,688 yards, 58 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

When looking at his dominating statistical outputs, it instantly becomes apparent that Bridgewater’s lofty draft grade is more than warranted.

And though drafting quarterbacks has little to do with statistical production in college, Bridgewater’s film has also displayed that he has the attributes necessary to become a star quarterback at the next level.

“I think his game projects very well,” ex-Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm said on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. “He’s a smart guy, an athletic guy and he throws the ball accurately. He’s proven that he can perform in the pocket, and he’s also proven that when the pocket breaks down that he can make plays and make things happen. There’s really nothing that he can’t do.”

In addition to his exceptional physical tools, Bridgewater has also shown that he has the mental capacity, leadership skills and overall intangibles to succeed at the highest level of football.

“I remember watching him when he came in as a freshman,” Lefors remarked. “Just his personality – he doesn’t get rattled, and he’s got a very cool demeanor about him. I just love everything about him on and off the field. He’s a great kid, and he has his priorities in order.”

Given Louisville’s rich tradition of producing quarterbacks, the fact that Bridgewater will go down as the highest-selected signal caller in program history says everything you need to know about his talent and potential.

Without an easily detectable flaw, Bridgewater appears poised to make a splash in the NFL similar to the one that he made in college.

Louisville’s tradition at quarterback is already remarkably strong, and it will only continue to strengthen as Bridgewater makes his mark on the NFL.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.