Monday, March 20, 2023

How Teddy Bridgewater became a star high school QB in Miami before returning home to the Dolphins

How Teddy Bridgewater Became A Star High School Qb In Miami Before Returning Home To The Dolphins

Billy Rolle thought he had a possession receiver on his hands when Teddy Bridgewater was a 6-foot-3 sophomore at Miami Northwestern High in 2008, one that could go up and catch jump balls in the end zone for his team that was defending a 2007 national championship.

That was until one drill that spring where receivers were instructed to run go routes, catch the deep throws and then run the ball back to the quarterbacks.

Bridgewater decided he had a much quicker way to return the ball to the passers. He would flash his arm.

“One of his balls whistled right by my ear,” Rolle recalled in a phone conversation with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, “and I said to one of the coaches, ‘Coach, did you hear that? Watch it next time.’ Next time he went again, threw the ball back, and the coach looked at me and we were like, ‘This kid could probably play quarterback.’ … We had him start throwing some passes from that point.”

And so began Bridgewater’s journey to become, not just any quarterback, a future NFL quarterback — one that now is returning back home to Miami to play for the Dolphins in his eighth professional season.

“I’m just happy to be back home, man,” Bridgewater said over a Monday web conference call with reporters. “So many memories. So many special moments in my sports career happened in South Florida, and South Florida played a huge role in me developing the mindset that I have as an athlete, as a man in society.

“Of course, you remember the Friday nights at Traz Powell Stadium, competing against Miami Central, Carol City and Booker T. [Washington] and just the pageantry. You realize how passionate everyone is about sports down here.”

Despite the spring revelation of his arm, Bridgewater remained a receiver to start that sophomore season. Wayne Times, who was former Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris’ backup when Northwestern won the 2007 national title, was supposed to be the heir apparent to Harris. Times, a senior, had the job to start the year, but Bridgewater supplanted him and Rolle moved Times to wide receiver, a move that benefited him to earn a scholarship to FIU.

Bridgewater lifted Northwestern through the gauntlet that was Class 6A in South Florida before an eventual state championship loss to Sanford Seminole that 2008 season.

While becoming a star recruit as a quarterback, Bridgewater wouldn’t return to the big game in high school, falling to Miami Central in regionals his junior and senior seasons. To this day, although he has an NFL résumé with 63 career starts and a Pro Bowl in 2015 with the Minnesota Vikings, Bridgewater still gives central quarterback Rakeem Cato, who went on to play at Marshall and the CFL, his due respect.

“I have the accolades, but I tell people all the time my favorite guy is Cato, Rakeem Cato,” Bridgewater said on Monday when asked if he’s the best quarterback Miami has produced. “He’s the one guy that I just couldn’t beat.”

Bridgewater nearly remained home to play college football. He was committed to UM’s 2011 recruiting class, but with the Hurricanes firing coach Randy Shannon late in the previous fall, he flipped to Louisville while Miami brought in Al Golden as coach.

Rolle said Bridgewater was already in communication with Louisville coach Charlie Strong, and Bridgewater’s mother was upset over criticism she saw from Hurricanes fans toward Harris as a quarterback playing collegiately in his hometown. She didn’t want her son to be subject to the same local reproach.

“We all had a good relationship with Randy, and then when that happened, they visited Louisville, a couple of places,” Rolle said. “She felt a little more comfortable with Louisville and coach Strong.”

Although he had developed as a passer, Bridgewater still had a feeling as a high school senior that he would have to switch to receiver in order to reach the NFL due to the perception of the Black quarterback before the league’s surge in that area over the past decade. Rolle worked more under-center plays into the offense to better prepare Bridgewater for a pro-style offense, which he was set to see more of at UM had he stuck with that commitment.

Going pro after three seasons at Louisville, Bridgewater wrapped his college career by dominating his hometown Hurricanes, throwing for 447 yards and three touchdowns in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl. He was the final pick of the first round in the 2014 draft.

After his Pro Bowl and playoff appearance with the Vikings in 2015, Bridgewater suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in training camp ahead of the 2016 season that cost him the year and most of the next with the Vikings.

“Just a little tad of bad luck with the injuries,” Rolle said. “Other than that, I always felt he was cerebral enough to make it. His IQ, he has a big football IQ. I think that’s what’s been holding him there as long as it has, other than his throwing ability and his scrambling ability.”

Bridgewater worked to rebound in his career as Drew Brees’ backup in 2018 and 2019 with the New Orleans Saints. He went 5-0 in five starts for Brees in 2019. Starting campaigns with the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos followed in 2020 and 2021, going 4-11 and 7-7, respectively, in his starts those years.

Bridgewater is reportedly coming to Miami to be Tua Tagovailoa’s backup, but Bridgewater himself on Monday declined to discuss what conversations he and the coaches have had about how the situation will play out.

When coach Mike McDaniel described what the Dolphins are looking for in a quarterback to pair with Tagovailoa at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis earlier in March, he described the role as a “No. 2 quarterback.”

“You want him to benefit the starting quarterback while the starting quarterback is the starting quarterback,” McDaniel said, “and empower him with how they approach their daily game-plan responsibilities and how they develop when they’re training in the offseason. But you also want a guy that can win games should the starter go down.”

Rolle, who is a four-time state champion coach with three Miami-Dade high schools (Northwestern, Killian, Southridge) and is now assistant head coach at Florida A&M, thinks Bridgewater is the man for the job.

“I think he’ll help Tua, definitely, as it relates to the IQ and reading defenses and stuff like that,” Rolle said. “He’s going to be a big asset, but he’s going to be an even bigger threat when he gets in, because of the experience that he has.

“I just hope it’s not the last that we hear of Teddy. I hope he’s coming to do well.”


Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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