TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — South Florida defensive tackle Todd Chandler is a close friend of Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and feels his former high school teammate is a lot more than one of the best college quarterbacks in the nation.
Chandler has known the Cardinals star since before their days at Miami Northwestern High. He says in addition to being a smart player who's "great under pressure" that Bridgewater is an even better person off the field — humble, compassionate and an inspiration for kids growing up in their neighborhood back home.
"Teddy grew up in Liberty City, where I grew up also," said Chandler, who'll face his buddy Saturday when No. 18 Louisville (6-1, 2-1) visits USF (2-4, 2-0) in American Athletic Conference play.
"Coming from Miami, a lot of young men don't make it out," Chandler added, noting there are several players on Louisville's roster from their old high school. "It's great to see them doing something positive with their lives."
While Bridgewater was developing into an outstanding prep player, the young quarterback's mother was also fighting cancer, a battle she eventually won.
"The situation he was going through in high school, I know it built him as a man. It put a drive in him that no one can take away," Chandler said.
"There were days when Teddy would come to practice and he would just break down and start crying. He was battling some big issues. ... Some days, I'd go over and talk to him: 'Oh man, it's going to be all right.' ... How Teddy's life is going now, it's special to see that."
Bridgewater has completed 72 percent of his passes and thrown for 20 touchdowns with just two interceptions this season. Louisville enters Saturday's matchup coming off a 38-35 loss to Central Florida that stopped an eight-game winning streak and sent the Cardinals tumbling 10 spots in the AP poll.
Against UCF, a usually reliable Louisville defense couldn't protect a 21-point, second-half lead.
"I was real disappointed, not because it was Teddy, but I wanted to be the one, wanted South Florida to be their first loss," Chandler said.
Cardinals coach Charlie Strong senses a renewed hunger and commitment within his team.
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