But Bridgewater felt it was during spring practice that he got into a groove with the offense.
“During the spring, I was able to get a feel for Coach Watson,” Bridgewater said. “By him being my quarterbacks coach, we already had a relationship. I was able to get a feel for his play calling.”
Connections to Bridgewater stream through Saturday’s game. At Northwestern, Bridgewater split time at quarterback and wide receiver with Wayne Times, now FIU’s senior wide receiver. Once Times proved himself the better wide receiver, Northwestern coaches put him there and Bridgewater at quarterback. Northwestern’s line included FIU guard/center Donald Senat.
One of FIU’s prize recruits from last year, freshman quarterback E.J. Hilliard, considers Bridgewater “like a big brother” and credits his Northwestern predecessor for getting him to play high school football.
“I didn’t want to play quarterback. I just wanted to play basketball,” Hilliard said. “They had a football practice. He came and talked to me after Coach [Billy] Rolle had talked to me about playing football. Ever since then, we’ve been cool.”
Hilliard lives two doors down from Bridgewater so it’s natural to ask him for a slice of life that would best epitomize Bridgewater.
“He’s a strong individual with what he went through with his mother [Rose Murphy],” Hilliard said instantly. “That was a hard challenge for him. His mother had breast cancer. At one point, he wanted to stop playing football and take care of her. I would say he’s a strong individual. He’s very humble, down to earth guy. He’s a real competitor.”
(So is his mother, apparently. She’s beaten breast cancer.)
Despite so many tethers to FIU and his hometown, “I’m treating it like any other road game,” Bridgewater said. “We’re going down there to play a football game.”