When Louisville opened practice Thursday morning, it was quarterback Will Stein who came out hoping to emerge as a true leader on this team.
Questions surround the position headed into the season. Stein opens camp as the starter, but the Cardinals also want to take a look at highly touted true freshman Teddy Bridgewater, who enrolled in school early and was there for spring practice.
Coach Charlie Strong said he wants to get both quarterbacks ready, and that Bridgewater will have a chance to play in games this season. But the Cardinals will rely on Stein, who goes into his junior season as the most veteran quarterback on the roster.
And by veteran, Stein really doesn’t have a whole lot of experience himself. He played in two games last season and started two as a walk-on in 2009. Still, getting into games counts for something.
“Good teams in college football always have really good quarterbacks,” Stein said Thursday morning after the Cardinals’ first practice of the fall. “If you have a good quarterback, you’re going to win. It's my job to be that guy for this team so we can take a step forward and be better than 7-6 and going to a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. We have big thoughts about this team. A lot of people doubt us, but we know what we have. It's my job to prove that to everybody and to prove myself, to this team and the coaches to be the guy they can count on.”
Stein realizes there are some who doubt his ability and some of his physical attributes. He is just 5-foot-10, undersized for a quarterback. But that is something he has dealt with throughout his career. He knows he has what it takes to be a leader on this team.
“I’ve won at every level. Every sport I've ever played in, people have always doubted me,” Stein said. “But I've always proved them wrong. I've got that winning in me, regardless of size, stature, arms strength. It doesn't matter. I know how to win football games. Hopefully that translates into fall camp and the season.”
Emerging as a leader is his biggest goal for camp.
“It's really important to me,” Stein said. “That includes playing well every day, coming out to practice with a purpose every day, managing the team, not trying to do anything crazy out of my ability, and being a good distributor of the football.”
As for the competition with Bridgewater, Stein said, “Teddy's a great player and a great kid. He's got all the potential in the world to be a fabulous quarterback here and in the future. I'm a winner through and through so whatever it takes for our team to win, I'll accept. I’m a team player. That's the coach's decision. I can't really control that.”