Two weeks ago, Teddy Bridgewater was crouched down on the sidelines at a Northwestern High football game. He was wearing the colors of his alma mater — a rose gold tee shirt, blue shorts — and he held a dry-erase board and marker in his hands.
Northwestern’s starting quarterback had been sidelined with an injury, so the veteran NFL quarterback gathered the high schoolers and drew up a play.
When the Dolphins quarterback spoke to reporters about being at the game days later, he said his wish is to coach high school ball at his alma mater once his playing days are over.
Teddy Bridgewater is drawing up plays for Miami Northwestern late in the second half. pic.twitter.com/uTJYgRui7v
— 305 Sports (@305Sportss) September 23, 2022
But when Bridgewater makes his first start as a Dolphins quarterback, filling in for an injured Tua Tagovailoa, against the New York Jets on Sunday, it will mean a lot to him — and to the local community he’s inspired.
“It’s a huge blessing to be able to just suit up in my hometown,” Bridgewater said. “I played little league football five minutes down the road at Bunche Park. So if I leave work tomorrow and go to the park, all of the little kids will come running up to me excited. If I go to the Northwestern game on Friday night, everybody will be excited. It’s such a relief, honestly, knowing that the love is genuine no matter where I go. I really appreciate that from my community and my people. I know they’re excited that I get this opportunity. I’m looking forward to it.”
To those who watched Bridgewater as he rose as a young phenom from Liberty City, one of Miami’s historically Black neighborhoods, to a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2014, they say his strong relationship with the community stems from his authenticity, instilled by his mother, Rose Murphy, a breast cancer survivor.
“Your character is built when you’re not around your parents,” said Max Edwards, Northwestern’s head football coach. “You can tell he has good character in the things that his mom showed him when she was bringing him up. It reflects that his character is good because his upbringing was awesome.”
Bridgewater’s charitable acts have been well-documented, from his annual Christmas in July Event — he rents a U-Haul truck and gives toys to kids — to buying new uniforms for his alma mater.
At Northwestern, he’s helped with drills at practice and served as a mentor for the young players. One of those players was Tutu Atwell, who played quarterback at Northwestern and now is a wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams.
Atwell had not known much about Bridgewater, playing at Louisville at the time, when he met him but the two quickly struck a friendship.
“He would help me with coverages, break down everything to me,” said Atwell, who also grew up in Liberty City and attended Louisville for college. “He would play with the defense. We would use to do 7-on-7 and he was the safety and I would just have to pick him apart.”
For as many great players as Miami has produced, Atwell thinks of the countless who were talented enough to make it to college or the pros but succumbed to the vices of the inner city. That makes Bridgewater’s presence even more impactful to young people who look up to him.
“It means a lot to the younger kids,” Atwell said. Growing up in Miami, it’s rough. Most people don’t make it. He was one of the few to make it. Just giving back, it’s the right thing to do to give back to your hood and give back to your community. ... He doesn’t speak a lot but his work off the field and on the field shows.”
When Bridgewater is on the field Sunday, Edwards hopes his players and other kids find inspiration in somebody who found success from similar circumstances and did things the right way.
“His community and the Miami Dolphins, they’re excited because he represents us and we’re going to support them regardless of the outcome of the game,” Edwards said.
Though Bridgewater is described as soft-spoken, during the summer he wrote a lengthy post on Facebook, a call-out to fellow athletes and the image they’re portraying to the youth.
“Don’t wait till you inherit this legal money from the league to decide you want to be tough or portray a ‘street image’ cause it’s kids that’s looking up to everything we do,” he wrote.
The post went viral, with several athletes, including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, co-signing the message.
Asked about the impetus of the post, Bridgewater said it was “random” and he just started typing what was in his mind. But the core of the post went back to Bridgewater’s desire to be a positive influence on his community.
“It’s really something that I always talked about when I was playing for different teams out of town,” Bridgewater said. “Just allowing for people to see me in the flesh. There are so many kids in the Bunche Park area, the Liberty City area, who want to be Teddy Bridgewater and look up to Teddy Bridgewater, but they can only see me on the television. So when they can see me in the flesh on the sideline, high school kids can touch me and interact and realize that I’m human just like them. That’s food for my soul.”