MINNEAPOLIS -- A year ago at this time, Teddy Bridgewater hadn't been through his infamous pro day yet. He was still at the top of many draft boards, with some predicting he'd be the most NFL-ready quarterback in his draft class.
At least according to one awards ballot, nothing changed on those fronts.
Bridgewater was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year on Friday, winning the award through a fan vote. It doesn't mean the Minnesota Vikings quarterback will win the "official" Rookie of the Year award on Saturday night -- he'll have to beat out the New York Giants' Odell Beckham, among others, for the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award -- but the fact that Bridgewater won Friday's award is a vindication of some sorts.
"This award means a lot to me. I’m glad to have the fan base that I have,” Bridgewater said in a statement. “They’re the reason I was even in consideration for this award. To be able to play the game is one thing, but to also have a fan base is another and I’m very appreciative for that. Playing in The Bank this year – TCF Bank Stadium – hearing those fans chant my name, that was an amazing feeling. Also being able to go out and live out my dream, be able to complete my first season in the NFL was always a childhood dream of mine, so everything paid off.”
Bridgewater dropped to the bottom of the first round in large part because of his poor pro day workout, when he threw without his gloves and gave scouts concern by missing several throws at Louisville. But once Bridgewater worked out with Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, he assuaged whatever fears the team had about his pro day and the Vikings put him at the top of their quarterback draft board with Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.
And at the end of his first season, Bridgewater looks to be at the top of his class among quarterbacks. His passer rating (85.7) was the seventh-highest by a rookie in NFL history, and his completion percentage (64.4) was the third-highest by a rookie. Bridgewater did it all at the controls of a dilapidated offense that was missing Adrian Peterson, among others, and fans across the country took notice of that performance.
Considering how much publicity Beckham earned after his sensational one-handed touchdown catch against the Dallas Cowboys and his prolific statistics, it says something that Bridgewater beat him out. We'll see if it's a precursor to more awards on Saturday.