Why Not Persa?

Dan Persa seemed invincible in his time at Northwestern. Yes, even when he was slowed by injuries last year, Persa was always #PersaStrong.

Extremely gritty. Super resilient. Team-first. A true leader.

To be sure, the Wildcats 2011 season was made worse because Persa was never completely healthy. It always felt like a 2010 Dan Persa would have won Northwestern a few of those games the team lost late. Not that the experience was bad for Kain Colter or the rest of the team. You are dealt the hand you are given.

But the Wildcats moved on. And, now, so must Persa.

Thursday, the NFL Draft begins and Dan Persa — along with notably Drake Dunsmore, Jeremy Ebert and Jordan Mabin — will be wondering if their names will be called during the three-day extravaganza.

Northwestern is not some pro powerhouse (although it definitely has more pros than you would think, as marked by the wall inside the football center on campus). But there might be a few more photos to add to the Nicolet Football Center walls after this weekend.

The one prospect we all believe deserves a close look during the Draft from NFL scouts with a late-round pick is Dan Persa. He embodied everything that Northwestern was about for his five years in purple. Having Persa drafted would seemingly validate everything Northwestern’s winningest senior class had been about. Fair or not, Persa came to embody Northwestern football the last two years.

He embodied an inner toughness and resiliency that everyone watching had to admire. When he was healthy in 2010, it seemed that he could escape anything. Even his dying breath in that season was a game-winning touchdown. This was the kind of player that Northwestern fans came to love. Persa was a guy that would do anything for his team.

His numbers did not hurt either.

Dan Persa looks sad :(Last year, a decidedly worse and more inconsistent year than his stellar junior season, Persa still completed 73.4 percent of his passes and racked up 2,376 yards in 10 games with 17 touchdowns against seven interceptions. His hallmark 2010 year was very similar. Persa completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 2,581 yards in 10 games with 15 touchdowns against four interceptions. He added 519 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns along with more than a few great escapes.

It was clear that in Northwestern’s offense, Persa could do everything asked of him.

Of course, Northwestern hardly runs a pro style offense. The Wildcats offense is about getting rid of the ball quickly and working out of the shotgun. Persa has not had to make many of the difficult throws — namely the out routes or deep throws that NFL quarterbacks have to be able to make mostly from under center. Back at the Shriner’s East-West All-Star Game in February, Persa’s work under center was what was getting the most scrutiny.

Now with Draft week finally here, there are still plenty of questions scouts have for Persa. The question is: will it be enough to get him drafted?

Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune asked ESPN analyst Todd McShay about Persa and the other Northwestern draft prospects… the results were not kind to the men in purple.

Here is what McShay said:


I want to like Persa, but as an NFL prospect he is limited. He’s 5-11 and change, 210 pounds. He is such a good competitor and can create with his feet. He will get a look and have a chance to compete for a roster spot. He’s a good enough athlete to get involved with special teams. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team, but I don’t know that he fits into the NFL from a skills perspective.


And that is the ultimate question with Persa. Can he overcome some of his physical shortcomings to be an NFL player? Can his intangibles win out?

It seems as if this has been the question haunting Persa since he was in high school. It is likely why Penn State, the team Persa and his family grew up cheering for, passed over him as an All-State quarterback in the middle of Pennsylvania. And, again, this is the question Persa has to answer.

There is probably no doubting that his heart and his determination are there to play at the next level. But NFL scouts are kind of an interesting bunch. Physical tools and “fitting the mold” matter as much as on-field production when it comes to talent evaluation. You will see many of the same comments from scouts as you do in the article I linked to in the previous sentence from Vic Ketchman of Packers.com. This is the reality Persa is entering into.

If there is one guy that can overcome it — in the right situation — it is Persa.

Remember, Persa started off as a special teams player at Northwestern because he just wanted to get on the field so bad. He became the “Top Cat” for his weight room prowess. Persa is the kind of guy that some team will take a chance on just to have in the locker room, pushing other young players to be better.

And, once you get him on the practice field, maybe that will be enough to convince some coach somewhere out there to put him for a play or two.

All someone has to do is take the chance.

  • cece

    yes, he is wonderful. hoping for good things for him and all the players hoping to get a phone call.

    does NU sports list all the former players now playing in the NFL? is that NCAA legal? cause the list is growing and it is impressive. plus plus, watching them in action on Sundays.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      Typically a list of pros is in the media guide. I know that when I was covering the football team they had a wall full of all the Wildcats who went on to play in the NFL. They are very proud of their alumni!

      • cece

        right. should be available so we can link it around.

        • Lake The Posts

          ESPN.com has had several posts on this, this week. NU is tied for 9th, I believe with 13 current NFL players and also around there for 1st round picks since 2000 (2).

  • NUUM

    Just so you know, it’s “You play the hand you are dealt.”

  • DarkSide

    Dan will make an NFL roster or CFL roster. In the future, the pundits will talk about how smart the GM that drafted Dan was to uncover such hidden talent. We can all say, we knew it all along. Go Dan. Persa strong.

    • wildcat6

      Your comment about the CFL is spot on. Persa’s outstanding foot speed and incredible accuracy would be perfect for the wider field and deep end zones of the CFL. It’s no insult – remember, Warren Moon and Doug Flutie had success “up north” before achieving in the NFL.

  • chartmoose

    I love the positive comments — let’s limit the naysayers on this one! It is unfortunate that sometimes the volume of comments only spikes when there are lots of negative things to say.

    I think we should support Dan & try not to ruin the good vibe here.

    He was the all-time NCAA leader in completion percent, he was our starting quarterback for 2 years, he was All Big 10, and he should tremendous heart and guts recovering from his injury.

    Best of luck to Dan at the next level, in football and in life! :)

  • Ron

    I sent in that question to “Ask Vic”, Ketchman’s mailbag column on the Packers website. I don’t feel as though I was given an answer other than he “was a spread offense quarterback,” and thus automatically deemed unable to make the jump to the NFL- regardless of his statistics or intangibles.

    • Ron

      And LTP, if you’re reading “Ask Vic,” maybe there’s some hope of saving you from your evil Patriots past :-)

      • Philip Rossman-Reich

        lol… unfortunately that was not LTP, that was me. Popped up on a Google News search for Dan Persa.

        It still amazes me that the NFL still dooes not believe in spread quarterbacks. More teams are running offenses with spread principles and running plays out of the shotgun more than ever. It is only a matter of time before the skills valued at the college game seep into the pro game.

  • pres

    I love persa and am a huge cats fan, but I’m definitely not sold on Persa’s abilities translating to the NFL. Drafting QBs in the NFL is basically a crapshoot (who thought Vince Young was a bad draft pick after that Texas-USC National Championship game in 2005???).

    I hope he makes a roster, but you can’t exactly blame scouts for not giving him true consideration. If it’s your full time job to evaluate college prospects, the risk of using a draft pick on persa is so high that it would be tough to justify.

    Don’t forget he’s overcoming a horrific injury, and that alone would be an issue for NFL teams even if he had “prototypical size” and could make “all the throws”, as they say.

    • cebpd

      I did. Vince Young relied primarily on his running ability and his sheer athleticism to create. I never saw great throwing that would indicate he would be a good NFL QB.

    • chartmoose

      >> “you can’t exactly blame scouts for not giving him true consideration.”

      Yes, I can blame scouts for not giving him true consideration.
      It seems to me that a lot of the “conventional wisdom” on this is a bit silly.

      The “conventional wisdom” seems to say:

      1) There is a big freakin’ difference between 5′ 11″ and 6′ 0″. Really? Don’t we have enough evidence to the contrary?

      2) Kafka was draftworthy and Persa wasn’t.
      Yes, there is a height difference & injury difference.
      But really?
      No one is arguing that Persa would be a *STARTING* NFL quarterback next year, so I’m not sure why a year-old injury is quite that big a deal…
      Before Persa’s injury, most of us expected Persa to have a BETTER senior year than Kafka.
      After his injury, have we forgotten that?

      3) Spread offense quarterbacks are less attractive.

      4) Instead of getting “bonus points” for the way he battled back from injury & the way he exceeded all REASONABLE expectations of what someone can do in the year following that kind of injury, Persa should get dinged because he wasn’t at 100%.
      Remember LTP’s statistical analysis of what happens to quarterbacks in the year after an ACL injury?
      Go back & read that post & tell me that Persa didn’t completely blow those expectations away.

      5) It seems like an All Big 10 player from Northwestern needs to work harder to justify himself more than a similar player from another “named” school.
      In other words, we are battling old prejudices.
      This is ridiculous, given the success record that NU players have in the NFL.

      The conventional wisdom here is as ridiculous as the beginning of “Money Ball”, when a group of old men sat around a table swapping stories about the conventional wisdom of baseball recruiting — which was ALMOST ALL WRONG.

      There are 2 problems that I have with people posting negative or lukewarm comments about Persa’s NFL fit:

      1) I don’t think it makes us look particularly objective or smart to say things like “I’m not sure he has the height” or “Remember his injury”. I think it shows that we understand the conventional wisdom of NFL scouting & we don’t mind going along with it.

      2) I think we’re not showing Dan the support that we owe him as fans.
      It’s one thing to call out our defensive coaching staff for doing a horrible job with the secondary last year — something good can come out of this critique, so I don’t think it’s a bad idea to post that on this blog.
      But what possible good can come out of saying that you can’t blame scouts for skipping over Persa????
      Any reasonable person would think that if Northwestern fans aren’t going to support the guy, he must not be that good….

      It would have been cool to get a firestorm of support for Persa — 100+ comments like we saw in the old days when people wanted to fire 1/2 our coaching staff.
      *THAT* would have been an appropriate way to send out our starting quarterback.
      But <20 posts with some of them saying "well, you can't really blame the NFL scouts really" is PATHETIC!

      • byebyefitz95

        Dude…Persa will not be drafted. I would love him to be drafted but it is being realistic. Kellen Moore is the winningist QB in NCAA history, but his 6’0 is a problem.

        Persa was money before his injury and would maybe be a stud in the CFL. Now let’s hope he will use his degree for something because he will not be in the NFL.

  • Chasmo

    Sometimes I wonder if college football fans understand just how much bigger, stronger, faster NFL players are as group than college players are.
    Why would any NFL GM waste one of his seven draft picks on Dan Persa when Persa will most certainly will be there to be signed as a free agent?
    Why would Dan Persa waste his time signing as a free agent with an NFL team when a better option would be to go north of the border to audition for a CFL team where the much lower talent level and the wide open nature of the game would give him a chance of making a team?
    Unless Persa regains 100% of the speed and quickness he had as a junior and can turn himself into another Steve Tasker by returning punts and covering kicks, it’s hard to see any way he sticks with an NFL team.

    • cebpd

      maybe he might want to use his degree or not continue with football. Not everyone wants to go live in saskatchewan or calgary.

  • dsagdfsg

    *** {{w w w }} {{fashion-long-4biz }} {{ com}} *****

  • Just read “MoneyBall” again. The points made in that book – about undervaluing performance based on looks – seem appropriate here.

    I have no doubt that Dan will out perform expectations at the next level. The only question is . . . where?

  • cece

    two illinois players in the first round? gak.

  • PDXCat

    A wise man once said life s*its on everybody. Pretending it isn’t s*it doesn’t make you an optimist, it makes you an idiot. If I say, omorrow’s my first day off in three weeks, it’s probably going to rain is pessimistic. Saying, it’s April in Oregon, there’s a good chance it’ll rain tomorrow is realistic. To say Persa doesn’t have a good chance at making an NFL roster isn’t negative, it’s realistic. Us posting how much we love Dan and how great we think he would be isn’t going to get him drafted. Nor will comments about his lack of a real chance to get drafted going to keep him out of the league. Look at your points. Find evidence (like a Moneyballer would) that a spread quarterback is a viable option in the NFL. Where are these guys? What kinds of quarterbacks are successful in the NFL? Not spread guys. Where are the 5-11 guys? Or 6-foot guys? Not many (at least not at QB). What have you done for me lately? Having a nice junior year is one thing. Do you really take a guy (at 5-11 and a spread quarterback) on the hopes he gets back to pre-injury levels? That’s just realistic. I hope Dan gets picked up by my Lions and has a grand and glorious career. I also think the chances of that are rather slim. And that’s just being realistic.

    • chartmoose

      Evidence for spread offense quarterbacks doing well:
      “Of the 24 quarterbacks taken in the first or second round of the draft since 2005, 11 ran a variation of the spread offense in college. Despite starting fewer games in the NFL than their non-spread counterparts, their career statistics are almost identical.”

      Evidence around short quarterbacks:
      1) Two words: Doug Flutie
      2) Dan Persa had the best completion percentage ever in the NCAA. He was only 5’11”. By achieving this, he outperformed every NFL-bound quarterback that played NCAA football…
      3) Reference to lack of short quarterbacks in the NFL is not evidence — it’s a logical fallacy. This is a “self fulfilling prophecy”.
      If we all agree that the NFL doesn’t like to draft short quarterbacks (and I think we do), then we should all agree that it will be hard to show a lot of examples of short quarterbacks who did well.

      Finally, you are missing my point.
      I agree that it should be OK for someone to say “I realistically think he won’t get drafted, but I think that stinks — he should really be given a chance.”
      I think it is unacceptable to say “I don’t think he will get drafted, and I honestly can’t blame them…”
      The exact quote that I railed against was:
      “you can’t exactly blame scouts for not giving him true consideration.”

      If you don’t think he should get drafted and you are a Northwestern fan, then I would suggest that you should keep your mouth shut. You aren’t helping anything, and you should really question whether you are behaving in a way expected of a true fan…
      Yes, I understand that it is unlikely that NFL teams will be trolling LTP and using that to inform their decision of whether to draft Dan Persa.
      But I consider it very likely that top tier recruits would prefer to go to a school where there are truly supportive fans, and I know for a fact that many recruits read blogs like LTP…

      I can’t believe that I need to explain why it is important for us to be supportive of our players on a fan blog.
      If we aren’t supportive of our players, then we are making Coach Fitz’s recruiting job harder than it needs to be.
      If people on this blog are willing to ask for accountability with the coaches, then I would ask them to be accountable for being supportive of our players.

      If you think you “bleed purple” but only post after a frustrating loss when you want to fire a coach or two but do NOT ever post in support of our players — then please question whether you really do “bleed purple”.
      Far too many times, we see sentences that say “I bleed purple, but…”
      Keep on bleeding purple!
      And next time forget about the “but”!

      • byebyefitz95

        Chartmoose you make it way to easy…

        1. Doug Flutie…had a record of 38-28…One good season and was 0-1 in the playoffs.

        2. Cannot deny that.

        3. There are no stats because there are no good under 6’0 QB’s…wait Doug Flutie so you say.

        It’s a blog…let people say what they want. People like you make recruits “who read fan blogs” not want to come here with that stick up your ass.

  • timc

    Think we’ve got the Persa situation covered. Fingers crossed. Now what about #11? I have a huge fantasy that the Bears will take him in a late round and he goes on to beat out Sanzenbacher for the dirty work slot. He’s got better hands and is faster. Hey we’re Cats fans! We can hope right?

  • Pres

    Whoah, that was an intense response. I don’t really care to argue, just making one statement. The fact that someone has a different opinion then you about the draft prospects of one of our players does not make them any less of a fan. You shouldn’t be so quick to judge others, and I will try not to judge you based on your somewhat naive comments.

  • jimgocats93

    Who knows the actual height of players? But Drew Brees is listed at 6-0. Why not draft Persa????


    • byebyefitz95

      Brees went to four bowl games, including the Rose and won 2 alamo bowls. That is why.

  • chartmoose

    I agree my rhetoric was intense.
    Perhaps I should tone it down.

    Despite my long posts (or perhaps because they are so long), I think I am being misunderstood.

    Just to be clear — I think it is OK to disagree about draft prospects of players (\I think he has a good chance to get drafted\ vs \I think he doesn’t have a good chance to get drafted\).

    I believe that you crossed a very important line when you suggested that scouts would be justified not to draft Persa
    (\you can’t exactly blame scouts for not giving him true consideration\) and questioning his ability to succeed in the NFL (\I’m definitely not sold on Persa’s abilities translating to the NFL\).

    I’m not judging whether you are a huge Cats fan.
    I’m suggesting that by posting non-supportive comments about our players, you aren’t acting like a Cats fan should act.

    I am fine with it if you want to call me naive (without judging me — which is a bit of a trick — you have clearly mastered irony).
    I just hope you think twice before you make further posts that are not supportive of our players.

  • byebyefitz95

    “I’m not judging whether you are a huge Cats fan.”

    Then why did you say?

    “You aren’t helping anything, and you should really question whether you are behaving in a way expected of a true fan…”

    Dude shut up. If you think some top 5 star recruit is not coming to NU because of what is said on LTP you are brainless. They are not coming because they actually have to study.

    • chartmoose

      @byebyefitz: I should know better than to respond to you — maybe I am brainless :)

      For clarification –
      This is why I said what you quoted: I believe it is possible to BE a huge Cats fan, but then not ACT the way a huge Cats fan should act.

      In the same way, it’s possible to be a nature lover who gives money to environmental groups & picks up trash by the roadside. It is also possible for that nature lover to go on hikes and go off the trail — if everyone does it, it causes erosion & can hurt plants & animal habitat & etc.
      The person is still a nature lover, but they caused unintended harm to the thing they love.

      I would not judge the PERSON and tell them they aren’t a nature lover.
      I would judge the BEHAVIOR and say — “here’s something you didn’t think about — maybe someone who calls himself a nature lover shouldn’t do what you just did. If you really love nature, you should perhaps behave a different way.”

      That’s my opinion. I’m fine with it if you disagree…

      I already admitted that my rhetoric was intense & I need to tone it down.
      That said, I didn’t call anyone brainless…

      • DT

        @byebyefitz is right on the mark with his comments to you… While I dig your passion and support for Persa, your lack of objectivity is a joke and your accusatory tone about those that question coaches here is apples and oranges at best to the question of Persa in The NFL Draft…

        The way I see it, Danny will not get a draft and at best will be a priority free agent given his size, the fact he is a still a step slower post the surgery, and has limited ability to get the ball downfield on deep routes ala NFL skill sets. His showing at the Senior Bowl was poor.. Blame Brad Childress if you wish I guess… The kid has a great heart, is a fierce competitor and will always rightfully be held in high esteem by all of us with an affinity for NU Football.. That said, to blow BS on this website about how he is not getting support from NU Fans who comment here and further, to inflate his potential given the Kool Aid you are sipping is wrong…

        • DT

          Meant to say East-West Shrine Game. Not Senior Bowl… My bad..

        • chartmoose

          OK, thanks for the tag team :)

          For the record: I don’t think Persa is going to get drafted either. That’s why I’m so pissed and disappointed. The reason I got so worked up about this is that a lot of the reasons I had been hearing for not drafting him seemed silly to me, and those reasons were going unchallenged.
          I am in the camp of believing that he SHOULD get drafted but WON’T. You may recall that I even tried to present evidence and logical argument to supported my “inflated” view of Persa’s potential…

          byebyeFitz is “right on the mark with his comments to me”? Great — then apparently you also think I have a “stick up my ass”, and you also think I’m “brainless”.
          Nice to know we have a consensus building here :)

          I wish it were easier to be supportive of a player without this kind of namecalling.
          (I believe I went a bit overboard myself — but I don’t think I descended beneath saying people weren’t acting like fans should act…)

          Congrats — from here on out, you get the last word… I’m frustrated, and I’m done…

          Maybe THIS is why we aren’t getting more supportive comments on this blog…

          • DT

            C’mon, you lit the fuse on this with more comments than most have time or energy to confront… Your admonishment seemingly to many who take time to contribute here calling the support for Persa “pathetic” was certainly less than positive and constructive. Fact of the matter, most including myself, would love to see Danny Persa thrive in the NFL. That said, based on tangible metrics way beyond the success of Doug Flutie and others lacking measurables and beating odds- Dan is a long shot in the NFL Draft or given his current capability, a long and productive NFL career.
            Does not detract from the good things he did at NU nor his legacy here that I’m sure you and I would agree on to a large extent…

            Semantics might be in play here as well, with your self described description and mea culpa of being “intense” called a stick up the ass by the other commenter… I see validity in both… :-)

            Personally, I think your diatribes were the sermon on the mount for no good reason, at least when it came to calling folks out on this blog for not supporting Persa… Also, I think your recurrent theme of scouts and recruits being influenced by comments from or on LTP’s blog are a push as well…

  • cece

    there are two types of NU fans who make my head ache….ones who expect everything to be rah rah our guys are great and nothing is wrong, and ones who think everyone should be rich to gain admission into anything with NU sports. both of these types of fans exhibit a corporate mentality that treats fans like lemmings or lepers. everyone is equal and welcome, kvetchy or happy, only enough money to buy a beer or a truckload of champagne/dinner with the coach. at least that’s how it should be. every person occupies one seat. and we need them all, the complainers and the cheerleaders, the poor and the rich. are you listening NU?

    • DT

      Well said…

  • Philip Rossman-Reich

    As an update: Persa did not get drafted. But Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune reports that the Buccaneers are very interested in signing Persa as a free agent. Nothing official yet though.

    Very interesting discussion. I have always felt the NFL Draft is a crapshoot. Scouts, by sticking to measureables, are merely protecting their jobs by going conservative. It doesn’t say anything about Persa as a person or a player. Hopefully he gets his chance somewhere.