LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Just before the clock struck midnight, Teddy Bridgewater's NFL dream came true.
It wasn't a fairy godmother who swooped in to save the day. It was the Minnesota Vikings.
For most of the first round of last night's NFL Draft, Bridgewater had a lead blocker in Johnny Manziel.
ESPN, social media, everyone was obsessed with the Heisman Trophy winner's fall from NFL grace, from a projected top 10 pick to the No. 22 overall pick, by the Cleveland Browns.
Soon after that, however, the spotlight moved to Bridgewater. ESPN, in particular, had little good to say about the University of Louisville quarterback, who was told he was a Top 10 pick before declaring for the draft after his junior season -- and graduation from U of L. Even his highlights were more miscues than magic that Cardinals fans came to expect from him.
With the clock ticking down on the final pick, belonging to the Seattle Seahawks, it looked like Bridgewater was going to be in New York another day. The narrative, it appeared, was ready for ESPN to cue up. Then the Minnesota Vikings moved in, traded for the pick, and selected Bridgewater with the 32nd and final pick of the first round, making him the third U of L player taken in the first round -- a groundbreaking night for a program that had only eight first-rounders in its history coming into this year's draft.
For Bridgewater, it already had been a big arrival in New York City. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and poured a bucket of confetti on the host's head. Through the sponsorship of Cadillac and the filmmaking of Spike Lee, he arranged for a birthday banquet for his mother and presented her with a pink Escalade, something he'd been promising her since he was nine years old.
People look at the draft and see guys like Manziel and Bridgewater waiting around to be selected, and they read the jokes on Twitter or elsewhere, and think it must be embarrassing for those guys.
But that's the wrong way to look at it. You can worry about the jokes of an increasingly snarky nation, or you can look at the facts of it. In the last week, Bridgewater has made good on a promise to his mother, has become an NFL quarterback, and achieved a life-long dream, one that many have, but few realize.
And, too, many of these are people who don't know Bridgewater, or his mother, Rose Murphy. I don't have to be sitting next to him to know that he wasn't thinking about how much money might have slipped away with each pick.
Throughout the night, as the waiting went on, Murphy told her son what she has been telling him for months, "be anxious for nothing."
It sounds like a nice message. But if you're familiar with the New Testament, you know it is the beginning of a longer passage, in Philippians, which reads, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Bridgewater is a walking example of that kind of thing, as is Rose Murphy. They have patiently worked, and they have fought. They weren't going to let anything mar this day that they both have earned, in their own ways.
"No matter what, we decided we were going to come here and enjoy this," Bridgewater said.
I don't know what kind of quarterback he'll be. I don't know how he'll fit into Norv Turner's Minnesota system. I do know he's different. He's not out in the clubs. He's not out drinking with the guys. He is purposeful and at his best when cornered. Even in the final minutes of the first round.
You can talk about money all you want. Blake Bortles was the first quarterback taken, the third overall pick, to Jacksonville. Manziel was the second, with the 22nd pick, to Cleveland. Bortles got the most money. Manziel got the most attention.
Bridgewater is in the best situation.
"You pair this Bridgewater kid with Adrian Peterson, that can be special," Ray Lewis said as part of ESPN's coverage.
He was right, and that's why Minnesota moved when it did, lest Houston pick up Bridgewater with the first pick of the second round.
"What I like about Bridgewater is that he wins," Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters in Minnesota. "Starts as a freshman in high school, he wins. Starts as a freshman in college, he wins. This guy has something about him."
The Vikings had to do things in twos with Bridgewater. There were two physicals, because the first turned up something abnormal with his heart that doctors wanted to re-examine. They wound up ruling it out as an issue, "a blip," Zimmer said later. When he saw Bridgewater next and asked him how his heart was, Bridgewater joked, "They said it was too big."
The Vikings also worked Bridgewater out twice, primarily, and had numerous meetings with him. After his first pro day, in which Bridgewater struggled while throwing without the glove he had used all through college, team officials came to Louisville again. This time, he threw with his glove. Zimmer wasn't at that workout, but said team officials "came back drooling."
Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman is the man who pulled the strings to draft Bridgewater, and said he wouldn't have done it had he not felt good about him.
"We feel very strongly about Teddy Bridgewater, from everything you see on the tape," he said. "I had the opportunity to see him play live three times. The game that really stuck out to me was the Rutgers game two years ago, when he came in with an ankle and a broken wrist and won that game. And I got to see him play live against Central Florida this year. Every time I had exposure to him, and with Coach (Norv) Turner, he just seems to have that knack."
There's no question, though, that the Vikings also were moved by Bridgewater as a person, and by his story. They met his mother during his first pro day, and inquired about her during his second workout, but she wasn't there. A young person in Florida she had been working with had lost a mother to cancer, and she felt like it was more important to be at that funeral.
Bridgewater should have a strong support system in Minneapolis. Richard Pitino, a former U of L assistant, is there. So is former Cardinals basketball player Gorgui Dieng and U of L women's standout Asia Taylor.
As to how soon he'll see the field, the Vikings weren't saying.
"Teddy will play when he's ready, if he's the right guy," Zimmer said.
Before the clock struck midnight in the first round of the NFL Draft, Bridgewater got that chance. On Twitter, he had a single message for fans: "Delayed but never denied."
Wednesday, August 20 2014 9:47 PM EDT2014-08-21 01:47:16 GMT
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