Teddy Bridgewater arrived on the Louisville campus in January 2011 as a scrawny teenager from Miami.
Well, scrawny may have been putting it kindly.
At 6-foot-3 and only 179 pounds, it was readily apparent that Bridgewater would need to bulk up -- not only to survive the various rigors that come with playing quarterback, but to get himself in better position to maximize all his incredible talent. The training staff immediately put him on a weight gain plan that boosted his calorie intake. Essentially, Bridgewater had to eat more for lunch and dinner.
The plan served to put a few extra pounds on him as a true freshman. But Bridgewater has undergone his biggest transformation this offseason, putting on 27 pounds since the end of December. Bridgewater is now up to 218 pounds -- some 40 pounds more than when he arrived on campus.
"I feel great," Bridgewater said in a phone interview Wednesday during Louisville media day. "A lot of the weight is in my arms and legs, so it helps me as far as throwing the ball and being more explosive. With the way I have been throwing the ball, I know I have built up my muscle endurance."
Bridgewater is one of the most talked about Big East players this season, simply because of the way he emerged in his first year as a starter. After throwing for 2,129 yards, he was named Big East Newcomer of the Year, and goes into this season as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Folks outside the league have taken notice, too, as Bridgewater is on preseason watch lists for the Davey O'Brien Award (best quarterback) and Maxwell Award (best player in college football).
For his part, Bridgewater says he ignores what people say about him and the high expectations many have for his team this season. Rather than listen to the hype, he spent his summer inside the film room, watching cut ups of every single play last season, both the good and the bad.
"It was a humbling experience because you see the good plays on film, you see the things you did well, but you can always get better and the film says that," Bridgewater said. "Even though we had good plays as an offense, we still have mistakes we need to correct, from watching the film."
What did he learn?
"I learned that when I play fast, I play better. It just means letting everything happen and let it come naturally," Bridgewater said.
That means doing less thinking and more playing. One area where he got himself into trouble last year was making too many mistakes -- his touchdown-to-turnover ratio can be markedly improved; it was 14-to-12 last season. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said during media day Wednesday he wants to see Bridgewater manage the game better, and make more of the right decisions.
What Louisville must continue to see is an upward trajectory, and not the dreaded "sophomore slump" that sometimes catches players that have had outstanding freshmen seasons. Bridgewater has a maturity about him, and terrific leadership skills, that should allow him to avoid taking a step back.
"I don’t think about that at all. As long as I put my trust in this coaching staff and my teammates, a sophomore slump shouldn’t even happen," Bridgewater said.