In a culture of “me-first” attitudes and diva-like athletes, it has become more and more rare to find a player that truly exemplifies the virtues of a student-athlete. Teddy Bridgewater seems to be that rare case as the quarterback of the Louisville Cardinals has handled a whirlwind of national attention as well as anyone possibly could after a breakout 2012 campaign. But is his latest act of quietly declining to get caught up in the hype of a Heisman Trophy campaign really just the best Heisman Trophy campaign we’ve seen?
Bridgewater has become the center of attention among college football and NFL Draft enthusiasts following his impressive display in the Sugar Bowl in Lousiville’s upset of the Florida Gators. He’s had draft “experts” calling him the next No. 1 overall pick in the draft, college football analysts praising his game and having a whole lot of people say a whole lot of very nice things about him. And he’s taken the whole thing in stride.
Bridgewater has remained the quiet and unassuming kid who started the 2012 season under center for Charlie Strong last August. He hasn’t been photographed on the beaches of Mexico with co-eds or tweeted out pictures of massive chest tattoos or really done anything to bring attention onto himself. He’s simply been working on improving so that he can lead his team in 2013 to the very best season they are capable of.
So if he had come out and embraced the hype-machine that leads up to college football’s highest individual honor, it would have been a major departure from the personality that he has displayed the last few years. It would be forced, unnatural and serve as a distraction to the success of the Louisville team, so Bridgewater did the most Bridgewater thing he could and declined the spotlight…which only turned the spotlight on him even more.
Already Bridgewater has been lauded for his team-first mentality and being a throw-back to when football players were concerned with the welfare of the entire team. Sportswriters, already impressed with the young man, have been falling over themselves to praise Bridgewater as the ideal for what a student-athlete should be. He will have his name plastered everywhere as the “anti-Heisman” guy, who is only concerned with the welfare of his team. And that “anti” campaign could be just the campaign to win him the Heisman.
Bridgewater will be in the national news cycle for weeks, but not with stories about how good he will have to be to win the Heisman. Instead, he’ll get his name out there as the guy who doesn’t care about winning the Heisman. That old-school, team-first mentality is going to play great with voters who have grown tired of the showboating, boisterous modern athlete and change the criteria to which he will be judged. He won’t have to blow the other candidates out of the water with his stats, but just be in the same neighborhood and his team-first image will win him votes.
I have no doubt that Teddy Bridgewater is genuine when he says that he isn’t interested in campaigning for the Heisman Trophy. It’s out of his character and contrary to what he is trying to accomplish at Louisville. And that could be exactly the reason it ends up winning it for him next December.