If Brandon Bridge can become a poor man’s Michael Vick, Alcorn State will be the richer for it. After a highly successful 2010 season, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound sophomore is intent on perfecting his homage to the Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowl quarterback and on showing the world that football players from Canada can excel in the United States.
That’s right, Canada.
Bridge arrived in Lorman, Miss., by way of Mississauga, Ontario, a Toronto suburb of 734,000, pretty much the way anybody meets anybody else these days — online. A representative of a national college recruiting service watched a YouTube video of Bridge, then contacted him via Facebook. After say to place him in a college, Bridge gave him his personal information, which led to a scholarship at Alcorn State, a campus 1,272 miles from his home.
“I didn’t know anything about [Alcorn State],” Bridge said. “All I knew is that [former NFL quarterback] Steve McNair went here.
“The first couple of days was sort of like an atmosphere shock, getting used to being in [this] country. But I was just so dedicated with football, I was more concentrating on becoming a starter as a true freshman. Growing up, a lot of people in Canada were saying I couldn’t play Division I football. When we played Mississippi State [last October], they kept saying we were going to get pummeled. I just wanted to prove a lot of people wrong, give kids in Canada hope that we can actually ball with these American guys, that anything is possible if you work hard at it.”
Against Mississippi State, Bridge did all he could. With his team down by 14 points, he broke off a 78-yard touchdown run, the longest run surrendered by MSU all season. He also threw a 20-yard TD pass to keep the game respectable early while on his way to a 193-yard passing day. The more talented Bulldogs eventually pulled away, but Bridge made his point.
“Canadians,” Bridge said, “can ball out against American talent.”
Yes he can.
For the season, Bridge was terrific both running and throwing. His 601 yards rushing were seventh in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and his 2,086 yards passing was fourth. He also had 19 touchdowns and ended the season with 2,687 yards in total offense — third-best it the SWAC. Those are the type of numbers that would make Vick proud.
For Bridge, that is the general idea.
He had a passing interest when Vick was a senior at Virginia Tech. But what took Bridge’s idol worship to another level was watching 2002 highlights of the quarterback’s game-winning overtime run against the Minnesota Vikings, a cartoon-like play where Vick’s quickness split two defenders causing them to collide with each other behind him as he exploded past. From that point on Vick could do little wrong on the field in Bridge’s eyes.
“That’s why I wear No. 7,” Bridge said. “When I was younger, I didn’t have a [helmet] visor until Michael Vick had a visor. I told my dad I needed a visor. When Michael Vick started to wear a towel, I wanted a towel. When he had a hand warmer, I wore a hand warmer. When he wore a glove on his [right] hand, I wore one. Everything that Michael Vick did, I wanted to play like him.
“I felt like if Michael Vick was dressing good, he would be playing the same way. And he did. He was always looking good. I wanted to be the same way and to play like him.”
Along with playing like him comes with the requisite game plan to stop him.
He’s going to see teams assign people to stop his running ability specifically and force him to beat them with his arm. Like Vick, he is having to embrace being a pass-first, run-second quarterback. It is something that is imperative in Alcorn’s new offense, one implemented by first-year coach Melvin Spears, and quarterback coach, Bruce Eugene.
Bridge is watching a lot of video and working on becoming a better pocket passer.
“He’s had to [study more film] because that’s really what our system is all about here,” Spears said. “It’s a pro-type, multiple-type system that’s predicated on the quarterback making great decisions. That’s the reason why we spend so much time in the film room. To be good, that’s what you have to do.
“He’s got a God-given ability that puts him at another level. He’s a real smart guy. He’s got a 3.7 [grade-point average] so he can absorb whatever the stuff we give him … to read defenses. It’s just the mechanical portion that we’re really working on. He’s gotten much better [at reading defenses]. At the end of the day, he’s still got to know where he is at all times. He’s such a great athlete and he’s so fast, has a good arm and makes all good judgments..”
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