Behind The ScenesNCAAF

His Sugar Bowl heroics behind him, Louisville star QB Teddy Bridgewater faces next test on ESPN this Sunday in season opener versus Ohio U.

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Teddy Bridgewater’s sophomore season as Louisville’s quarterback ended under an ESPN spotlight. His junior season will see many network showcases. On Jan. 2, 2013, in New Orleans, he led the No. 22 Cardinals to a 33-23 upset of No. 3 Florida in the AllState Sugar Bowl. Bridgewater earned game MVP honors and elevation into 2013 Heisman Trophy conversation.

This Sunday, the ESPN spotlight shines on Bridgewater again for the first of seven 2013 regular-season Cardinals’ games scheduled for the network’s platforms. Ninth-ranked Louisville entertains Ohio University (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN), and Bridgewater once again will be the marquee attraction. When he visited ESPN’s studios in July as part of a “Car Wash,” Bridgewater welcomed the chance to spread the word about Louisville football.

Seven ESPN appearances “gives me a chance to display my talent, but it also means a lot to our university. It gives us a chance to display our brand, increase our brand awareness,” the sports administration major told Front Row.

The Miami native hopes that strong Cardinals’ performances, especially on national and regional television, will help recruiting.

“If recruits know that seven out of 12 games are going to be on [ESPN],” he said, “why not go somewhere where you know you’re going to get that kind of exposure?”

Bridgewater’s Sugar Bowl performance — 20-of-32 passing, 266 yards and 2 touchdowns — was one to relish if you’re a Louisville fan. But he has not watched replays of that game, he said.

Replays of one painful play, however, are as unavoidable as the collision itself.

Jon Bostic, then a Florida linebacker and now a Chicago Bears rookie, hammered Bridgewater with a first-quarter hit so hard that it knocked the quarterback’s helmet off.

“Every morning, when I feel under my chin, I remember that hit. He left me with a scar,” Bridgewater said.

He doesn’t seek out the video of that play — it finds him.

“On Twitter, someone would tag me with a picture of the hit. On Vine, they’ll post the video,” he said. “And it’s there on Instagram. So, I’ve just been reminded of what the hit looked like.”

The scar is one personal trophy from an important victory, and he understands the Heisman Trophy hype that surrounds him.

He watched with rapt attention when Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel — “I’m a big fan,” Bridgewater said of Johnny Football — was declared the 2012 recipient on ESPN last December. But Bridgewater said he has his eyes on a bigger prize.

“I’d rather see my teammates on that podium in Pasadena next year rather than just seeing myself at some awards ceremony,” said Bridgewater, referring to the 2014 VIZIO BCS National Championship Game slated for the Rose Bowl in January. “I’m all about my teammates. Everybody remembers you for the amount of rings you have rather than your individual awards.”

If Bridgewater and the Cardinals fulfill his dream scenario for the end of the 2013 season, he’ll be on ESPN yet again. It could be a nerve-racking experience. On game days, the soft-spoken quarterback packs Bazooka bubble gum in his socks to calm his nerves — reaching for “one per quarter, [packing] two in each leg.”

Even while dressed in a business suit for his Car Wash, he needed to have the gum handy in a coat pocket, Bridgewater admitted.

“I was honored to be on the show with everyone on the [First Take] set. I love the way [commentator] Stephen A. Smith gets after everyone, ” Bridgewater said. “I was pretty nervous going out there. He’s a pit bull. He’ll scare the best of them! “

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