Dream deferred for Teddy Bridgewater and fans

Teddy Bridgewater sidelined for a while.
Teddy Bridgewater sidelined for a while.

So much fun watching Teddy Bridgewater in the exhibition game on Sunday, a preview of what was to come during his third season with the Minnesota Vikings.

Showcasing his skills in the brand, new $1.3 billion U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, 73,000 fans watching his every move. What a season 2016 would be for him.

Completing 12 of 16 passes for 161 yards, one for a come-from-behind touchdown in the first half in a 23-10 win over San Diego. Taking advantage of a new offensive line assembled during the off-season to protect him. Ready to take it to the next level.

Wait.

Say it’s not so the news coming out of Minneapolis on Tuesday, breaking without warning on Twitter, giving his fans no time to prepare or to accept the inevitable.

Bridgewater uncontested in a non-contact drill, backing up, looking for a receiver, planting his foot, going down immediately. Not getting up. Staying down. His teammates distraught, kneeling, some praying for him, told to go home as practice is dismissed and an ambulance carries him to a hospital.

Just as quickly, the 2016 football season is over for Teddy. His promising future on the shelf for now. Diagnosed with a dislocated left knee and a torn ACL muscle, Bridgewater is faced with serious surgery, followed by weeks and months of rehabilitation. Some inevitable uncertainty.

Really a shame, another reminder that bad things happen to good people, even the best of them. Such a genuinely nice person, fearless and determined, a role model earning the respect of friends and foes alike in the rugged National Football League.

Many University of Louisville fans switching their NFL allegiances to Teddy and Minnesota on Sundays, still holding Cards’ fans in the palm of his hands when he opposed their long-time favorites. UofL fans of the Bears became Vikings’ fans for a day, as did those who followed the Packers, the Bengals or the Titans.

“Teddy is such a great kid, everybody loves him,” said Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer. “We’re gonna grieve today and be upset about it. It’s more about our feelings for Teddy and for him as a person and getting better than it is about anything else.”

After his family, Teddy’s life revolves around football. No one who has come into contact with him has any doubt that he will be back, stronger, as determined as ever, eager to pick up where he left off.

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Petrino says Louisville football more than ready

“Game week. Finally got here.”

Coach Bobby Petrino spoke for a lot of people, declaring the long wait nearly over, the long hot summer for members of the University of Louisville football team finally behind them.

“It’s been a good pre-season. I like the way our guys work. I like the way our coaches have been coaching. It’s fun to see the new staff members and their personalities coming out. It’s been really good.”

Yeah, Bobby Petrino is ready (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Yeah, Bobby Petrino is ready (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

An entirely new outlook from a year ago when the program was still struggling to find a quarterback in a nationally-televised game against Auburn in Atlanta.

A team full of first-time starters took its lumps early, losing its first three games before winning eight of its last 10 games, including a signature win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.

So much different this time around. “A year ago everything was new to them, what we did on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,” he said. “These guys have been through that numerous times and that should help us in getting prepared.”

Petrino wants to see his team “come out and execute, do their jobs, do what they are asked to do, work their technique and fundamentals, and play with great effort play in and play out. I want to see guys with effort habit, playing hard on every play.”

The coach also wants to choose the option of receiving the ball on the opening kickoff every game if possible. “One of the hardest things I ever had to do was tell our guy last season that if we win the toss, we’ll defer until the second half,” he said, noting that he never wants to do that again.

It’s obviously difficult for Petrino to contain his excitement when asked about the progress quarterback Lamar Jackson has made during the off-season. “He’s had a good camp. He’s harder on himself now. He expects more from himself, as far as his drops, his sets, his accuracy. That’s really fun to see.”

With a stronger, more experienced offensive line, Petrino is expecting more from running backs Brandon Radcliff, L.D. Scott and Jeremy Wright, as well as from freshman Malik Staples whom Petrino described as “a home run hitter, capable of going the distance on any play.”

Petrino chomping at the bit, eager to get started.

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One step forward for UofL Trustees, another step back

Acting President Neville Pinto is flanked by board members Doug Hall and Larry Benz.
Acting President Neville Pinto is flanked by board members Doug Hall and Larry Benz.

Some good things occurred at the specially-called meeting of the “old” Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville on Thursday. The gut feeling from this observer, however, was that more than a little ill will was simmering beneath the surface.

The board approved a $548.3 million budget, which included a 5% tuition increase while allowing student who complete 30 hours of credit to receive a 5% credit to be applied to the following year’s tuition.  As a concession to some board members, however, the budget included a freeze on tuition for the 2017-18 budget.  A finance subcommittee had earlier rejected the proposed tuition increase in the current budget.

Acting President Neville Pinto reported that student enrollment at UofL will be approximately 21,500 for the fall semester. The figure includes 2,900 incoming freshmen with an ACT test score average of 25.5 and a cumulative high school grade point average of 3.6, with 465 of them qualifying for the honors program.

The meeting ended on a down note when Chairman Larry Benz reported that he has yet to obtain information about a $38 million loan from the University to the UofL Foundation without board approvals.

Jason Tomlinson, chief financial officer for the Foundation, has described the loan as a “receivable agreement,” benefitting both the University and the Foundation. Specifically, the loan was made to the UofL Real Estate Foundation, an arm of the Foundation.

“It was all done to benefit the university,” he told WDRB TV.

Benz, the on-again, off-again Chairman, wants to see the records himself, not trusting the previous administration, continuing to add to the friction between the various factions.

Here’s a video of the board meeting, excluding the closed sessions for litigation and personnel issues

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A recent Courier-Journal story reporting that new offices were being created for former President Jim Ramsey and Chief of Staff Kathleen Smith at the UofL Foundation was in error.

That’s according to Ms. Smith, who reported that the offices were for current Foundation staffers David James, Jake Robertson and David Adams.

The CJ story also suggested that board approval was required for office preparations. That would be a first for most organizations and businesses.

*   *   *

Andrew Wolfson, who covers the University of Louisville for the CJ, has a son who attends UofL.

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Life beyond athletics for Mario Urrutia

For many University of Louisville football fans, Mario Urrutia is remembered as the 6-foot-6 wide receiver who stiff-armed his way into the end zone against Miami on a 56-yard pass play from Brian Brohm.

Screenshot 2016-08-24 10.18.17That memorable play from the 2006 season would give UofL a lead and the momentum in a 31-7 win over the visiting Hurricanes, the first win ever over Miami.

That was just one of many big plays for Urrutia who played in 34 career games for the Cardinals, recording 130 receptions for 2,271 yards and 16 touchdowns in his three seasons. He opted for the NFL draft his senior season, picked by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round. He played on the Bengals’ practice squad before getting picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he developed a career-ending case of turf toe.

Mario Urrutia with youngster at backpack giveaway event.
Mario Urrutia with youngster at backpack giveaway event.

Urrutia recalls thinking while driving home to Louisville, “What could I have done better to prepare myself for life after football,” he said. “I am not an 8 to 5 desk person so what can I do?”

Mario returned to school, receiving his college degree in communications in May from the University of Louisville. “I felt so good after graduating,” he said, noting that he had minored in marketing.

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Creative approach to KFC Yum! Center artwork

Ken Clark, of Dynogen Marketing, displays wall hanging of KFC Yum! Center.
Ken Clark, of Dynogen Marketing, displays a wall hanging of KFC Yum! Center. The art includes recessed area for the basketball court and tiered seating levels.

Any visit to the sprawling retail display area in the South Wing of the Kentucky State Fair is going to includes numerous exhibits for satellite TV, cell phone accessories, T-shirts, cooking utensils and the like, extending forever it seems.

A nice surprise discovering a creative approach to athletic fan merchandise at a booth manned by Ken Clark from Indianapolis. The display included craftsmanship for a variety of schools, including Notre Dame, Michigan, Indiana and the University of Louisville.

KFC Wall HangingNoteworthy was the wall hanging of the KFC Yum! Center, 19.5 inches high, 25.5 inches wide, and 3.5 inches deep. The wood art includes a recessed area of the court and the seating levels.

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