So much of the NFL draft process is spent talking about prospects like they are machines programmed for the sole purpose of playing a game. We forget these are human beings getting poked, prodded and paraded around in shorts for three months.
No player in this year's draft class understands the highs and lows of the process better than Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who went from potentially being the No. 1 overall pick to wondering if he will even be taken on Thursday.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding his immediate and long-term future, Bridgewater has handled the whole thing with dignity and class. He's not out there making bold proclamations, rather just trying to embrace the moment whenever it comes.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports spoke to Bridgewater about these last three months leading into Thursday night. The 21-year-old had the best possible response to any questions about where he might be taken.
"My mother told me blessings can be delayed, but never denied.," Bridgewater said. "Whether I go in the first round or the seventh round, this is still an incredible opportunity."
How great is that? In an era where we have athletes having to steal a microphone to tout their greatness, here is a young man who knows that he's going to get a chance and doesn't matter where or when it happens.
Of course, the question hovering over Bridgewater actually has nothing to do with his performance on the field. In his junior year at Louisville, the star quarterback set career highs in completions (303), completion percentage (71), yards (3,970), yards per attempt (9.3), touchdowns (31) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (31-4).
You can't scout the stat line, but no one had any complaints with Bridgewater's game during the season.
ESPN.com's Mel Kiper (Insider subscription required) had Bridgewater going No. 8 overall to Minnesota in his first mock draft four months ago.
In terms of his ability as a passer, Bridgewater could go higher. But while I currently have him rated as the top QB on my Big Board, Bridgewater will need to prove to teams that he can command an NFL huddle and be the face of a franchise. I think he has the necessary physical tools to succeed, and shows an advanced approach with his footwork, anticipation, pre-snap command and ability to improvise.
It was only when scouts put Bridgewater in shorts and a t-shirt did you start to see cracks in the foundation. His pro day has become infamous, with several inaccurate passes, balls being thrown too far on deep routes and bouncing on comeback routes.
Since we live in an era of social media and every move an athlete makes gets put under the microscope. NFL Network's Albert Breer had this to say about Bridgewater's lackluster effort in March.
This is where skipping Indy could hurt Bridgewater. That he struggled in a controlled, scripted workout with his own guys raises questions.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 17, 2014
Even with all the scrutiny coming down on him, Bridgewater never lost confidence in himself or his ability, with Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman and J.P. Shadrick of Jaguars.com providing these quotes from the quarterback during an appearance on NFL Network.
TBridgewater to NFLN: "I think it went pretty well today." Mike Mayock & Kurt Warner, seated next to him, clearly thought otherwise— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) March 17, 2014
Bridgewater says he stays away from negative and positives said about him— J.P. Shadrick (@jpshadrick) March 17, 2014
No one is suggesting that Bridgewater should suddenly move back into the top-10, or even the first round, because he's a good guy with a strong mindset. But the fact that he, without using these words, understands how ridiculous this whole "dog and pony show" is speaks volumes about his character.
What is Teddy Bridgewater's NFL career going to be?
One of the biggest attributes that gets talked about with quarterbacks is mental toughness. You have to be able to handle criticism when it comes, because it's going to come. No other position on the field is as scrutinized as the guy under center.
Bridgewater doesn't have the strongest arm in the world and has to work on some things with his mechanics, which showed up at the pro day, but if you're looking at someone who can lead a franchise, wouldn't you want a guy who, via La Canfora's report, says that he has "something extra to prove."
Another thing that speaks to Bridgewater's high character is his decision to attend the draft at Radio City Music Hall. He knows that the analysts are going to be focused on him and the pro day, as well as wondering where he will go if the first round ends without his name called, but the magnitude of the moment is more important than all of that fluff.
It will be a bridge too far to say Bridgewater is a guaranteed superstar in the NFL, but of the quarterbacks available, his attitude and mentality on and off the field point to someone who will be a starter in this league for a long time.
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