INDIANAPOLIS - Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater might be the first name called in this year's NFL draft, something he has dreamed about since the first day he picked up a football at age 5.
But there was a time he was ready to give up the sport he loved. Once he learned his mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, Bridgewater wanted to quit.
"I was at the age of 14, and I was ready to give up sports just to take care of her because I felt that was my purpose in life,'' Bridgewater, 21, said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "God had called on me to stop doing what I'm doing to take care of her.''
Rose Murphy told her son something else.
"She told me, 'God has blessed you with your talents. Use them to the best of your ability,' '' said Bridgewater, who grew up in Miami with three older siblings.
The conversation was the turning point in his life, and he carries it with him always.
"That's why each day I step on that field, nothing bothers me, because I know what she went through,'' he said. "Nothing compares to that.''
Murphy, who raised her children as a single parent, survived her ordeal and will see her son continue his journey to the NFL. Many scouts consider Bridgewater the draft's top quarterback. And for the Texans, who will be looking to replace Matt Schaub, he might be the one. Houston also is looking closely at Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Central Florida star Blake Bortles.
Should Houston go with Bridgewater?
"Yes, no doubt,'' he said. "I feel that I'm the best quarterback in this draft. I'm not just going to sit up here and say it . . . I'm going to go out there and prove that I'm the best guy.''
His numbers couldn't be much better. In his last two seasons at Louisville, he threw for a combined 58 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. Last season, he completed a career-high 71 percent of his passes, with 31 touchdowns and only four picks.
But there are concerns. His weight was an issue at Louisville, where he once got up to nearly 225, then dropped 20 pounds and seemed almost too skinny, especially for the NFL. And his hands measure 9 1/4 inches, which worries some scouts about the potential for fumbles. By contrast, Manziel's hands measure 97/8 inches.
The 6-3 Bridgewater can't do anything about the size of his hands, but he can control his weight. He added bulk before the combine and weighed in at 214. He hopes to get back up to 225, but not by eating the junk food he indulged in at Louisville.
"I've been working hard with my eating habits and weight-room lifting,'' he said. "I just feel that to play this position, you have to have durability.''
It helps that he was in a pro- style offense at Louisville. "It just prepared me for some of the things that an NFL quarterback has to do nowadays,'' he said.
Bridgewater opted not to throw or run at the combine and instead will do so at his Louisville pro day.
Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, is getting most of the attention at quarterback, but Bridgewater said he doesn't care about the publicity duel.
"I actually don't pay any attention to what's going on right now,'' Bridgewater said. "All I do is control what I can control.''
Now he waits. Houston at No. 1? Jacksonville at No. 3? Cleveland at No. 4? No one knows yet, but with so many teams at the top of the draft looking for a quarterback, it won't take long for Bridgewater's name to be called and his dream of playing in the NFL to draw one step closer.
He can thank his mother for helping to make it come true.