Vikings' rookie QB Bridgewater is bridging the gap

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 28, 2014 - 8:44 AM

The list is scribbled on a piece of paper and tucked away in one of his notebooks, so he can see it every day. It might as well be in a vault, though. It is for Teddy Bridgewater’s eyes only.

Bridgewater always has been a goal-oriented person, and he has a summer ritual of writing down his goals before reporting for training camp. He crossed many of them off his list during his college career at Louisville and his high school playing days in Miami before then.

But Bridgewater doesn’t feel the need to share them, certainly not to an inquisitive reporter.

“I can’t tell you what’s on the list,” the busy rookie quarterback said while walking and talking after a recent practice. “I can give you the biggest goal: to not make the same mistake twice.”

This has become his go-to talking point the first week of training camp in Mankato, and in his brief time with the Vikings, Bridgewater has displayed the poise of a veteran while throwing around coachspeak as much as he has when throwing around footballs — and he has looked sharp doing that.

But one can assume that Bridgewater’s goals are more ambitious than that, that the top-secret list also includes seizing the starting quarterback job and leading the Vikings back to the playoffs. And whether or not he says it publicly, Bridgewater expects both to happen in due time. Bridgewater started preparing to become an NFL starter and the face of a franchise long before the Vikings drafted him with the 32nd overall pick in May’s NFL draft.

Bridgewater must beat out veteran Matt Cassel to cross that one off his list. Even if he doesn’t by Week 1, the Vikings still believe they have hitched their future hopes to the right quarterback.

“Teddy has been a really good get for us,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I do not know when [he will start], but I am ecstatic to have him. I love his personality. I was teasing him this morning about some stuff. He has a good head on his shoulders and is a good kid. The Vikings fans will be proud to have Teddy Bridgewater with us for a long, long time.”

Never giving up

Bridgewater’s discipline was developed at a young age, in part, by his father, Teddy Sr., an Army veteran. Even after his parents divorced when he was 4, Bridgewater had to charge through a list of chores when he visited his father. Keeping his grades up were also a must.

“My father did teach me some things,” Bridgewater said. “The No. 1 thing is respect.”

His drive? That comes from his mother, Rose Murphy, who raised Bridgewater and his three older siblings in the working-class Brownsville neighborhood of Miami.

Back then, Bridgewater stood out among his peers on the ball fields and sandlots, not just because he was one of the best athletes, but also because he was one of the tallest. By the time he was 9, his mom had to bring his birth certificate to quiet any parents who questioned his age.

Rose knew her baby was a special athlete as he watched him smack baseballs around the park and effortlessly play a handful of positions in pee-wee football. To her, Bridgewater was destined to become a star, but he considered putting football on hold when she was diagnosed with breast cancer when he was 14.

Rose, who is now cancer-free, wasn’t having it. She wasn’t quitting, and neither was he.

“His dream was always to be a professional football player and he wasn’t going to accept no as an option,” she said. “He got his strength and his stride just from watching me.”

Her battle with cancer taught Bridgewater “to live life with a purpose and live that purpose out loud,” and to never give up.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re going through, my mom always told me, ‘It gets greater later,’  Bridgewater said. “Even though she went through breast cancer, watching her continue to smile even when her hair was falling out and her fingernails were turning black and she was too weak to go to the bathroom. Watching her smile, that meant a lot to me, and I take those things from her and just apply them to my life.”

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