Teddy Bridgewater’s improbable journey is a story we can all love

NFL

Teddy Bridgewater’s improbable journey is a story we can all love.

Teddy Bridgewater is getting a fresh start as the new franchise quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, but his story is one we can all love no matter where our allegiances are.

Bridgewater made his NFL debut on Sept. 21, 2014, after being selected 32nd overall by the Minnesota Vikings. He finished the season as the 2014 Pepsi Rookie of the Year. In 2015, Bridgewater was named to his first Pro Bowl.

During the early part of a Vikings preseason practice on Aug. 30, 2016, Bridgewater went down on a non-contact injury.

“I saw it all,” running back Jerick McKinnon told ESPN. “I ain’t going to go into it. I don’t have any words to describe it.”

Bridgewater’s knee snapped, tearing his ACL and many other ligaments. Even his surgeon was shocked by what he saw.

“It was just a horribly grotesque injury,” Dan Cooper, his surgeon, said. “It’s mangled… It’s almost like a war wound. Everything is blown.”

It was an injury so bad some believed they may have needed to amputate the leg.

Not long after the injury, Bridgewater credited his mother for his strength. “I come from amazing DNA,” he said. “I watched my mom fight and win against breast cancer.”

Bridgewater began the journey of 19 long months of grueling rehab. Nearly two full seasons later, he played in his first game since the injury on Dec. 17, 2017.

That offseason, Bridgewater signed with the New York Jets. He played in two preseason games, and even purposefully took some hits in the second game to prove to himself that he had recovered.

He said he was having fun playing and felt blessed to be able to play football.

“His inner resolve,” Cooper said. “kept him from being defeated on a daily basis for a year and a half.”

After the second preseason game, he was traded to the New Orleans Saints nearly two years to the day removed from his injury.

Nearly three years after making his last start in January 2016, Bridgewater got to make a start for the New Orleans Saints in a “meaningless” week 17 game that was anything but meaningless for him.

That offseason, Bridgewater chose to stay with the Saints on a one year deal as Drew Brees’s backup.

Not long after, he got the opportunity he had been waiting for.

During a week two game against the Los Angeles Rams, Brees was injured and was expected to miss six to eight weeks.

Many people doubted Bridgewater’s ability to lead the team in the coming weeks and called for a third-string quarterback and do-it-all swiss army knife Taysom Hill to take the reins.

But it quickly became clear that Bridgewater was the guy that everyone in the locker room wanted to get behind. He had commanded the respect and admiration of the entire team. With each passing game, Bridgewater and the team grew tighter and it showed on the field as Payton gave him more room to make bigger plays. The entire team rallied around him.

The best-case scenario in many people’s minds was the Saints going 3-3 in the six weeks Brees was projected to be out. Instead, Bridgewater led the team to a 5-0 record. Brees came back early and he was once again relegated to backup duties.

But Bridgewater had made his mark. He had proven to doubters that he could, in fact, play football again, and he could do more than just be a game manager when needed.

Many believed that after those five games, he was bound to get a contract with a team as a starter.

And with free agency set to begin in 2020, Bridgewater got just that, signing a three year, $60 million deal with the Carolina Panthers after they began to seek a trade partner for Cam Newton.

Bridgewater’s improbable comeback is inspirational. He has been a player that fans can get behind and love, and everywhere he goes he just gains more respect and new fans.

At only 27 years old, Bridgewater’s football story is not yet over. We can all be excited about what comes next for him, even if he doesn’t play for our team.

Next: Carolina Panthers sign Teddy Bridgewater

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