The Likability Factor of Kain Colter

If you’ve ever met Northwestern QB Kain Colter a few things probably come to mind. The first thing, you think, is his diminutive size. Kain is shorter than you imagine. When you put him in the context of Big Ten QB category he’s tiny. In the nanosecond it takes your brain to digest and process the above you’ve already moved past that and internally raised an eyebrow to the feeling that you’re being drawn in to him. Kain emanates self-confidence, warmth, respect and a host of other traits that transform  rational thought in to an emotional state and the thought bubble spits out a word that takes all of this in to account. You think “man, he’s likable”. 

The amazing thing about this personal encounter is that the same thing explains without ever having an in-person encounter. Clearly Kain’s versatility for Northwestern reinforces how rare of a special athlete he is. It was not uncommon for Kain to play QB on a designed run, not leave the field for the next play and make a catch and then on the same series deliver a first down pass.  When you look his 2011 accomplishments they are truly remarkable. He was 34 receiving yards shy of a triple 500 – 500 yards or more passing, receiving and rushing. He led NU in rushing with 654 yards at 4.8 ypc.  Colter completed 67% of his passes (54/81) for 671 yards  with 7 TDs an only 1 INT.  But those are just numbers.

A good friend of mine is a relatively recent transplant from Manhattan, Kansas and as you would suspect, a Wildcat fan of a different purple team. His son, a stellar middle school athlete, is a huge fan of Kain Colter and they’ve picked up a few games to go to this season. You may find it hard to believe, but I had little to no influence on this decision. When I asked him what the real reason is, his son Grant said “I have to see Kain Colter in person”.  You watch him scat around the field to different positions and amaze when you see him on TV.   The most memorable (and there were a ton) play in the young Colter history was his now famous TD dive against Nebraska. Colter was able to turn the corner on the long side of the  field and take off from the four yard line in the air, switch hands with the ball and superman his way to touching the pylon for a huge TD.  That one play, to me, encapsulates the “X factor” of what Colter brings to the ‘Cats. There is a bounce-in-the-step factor that has you glued to him thinking and saying “what next”. 

Most men, especially in football parlance, are loathe to use unmanly words like “cute”.  This sentence would sting if I were Kain, but essentially he is just that – he’s cute. Yes, I’ve crossed in to the man-crush zone. Women have a different word for him and it’s likely something to do with a lot of heat. Bottom-line is Kain has a magnetic force to him that extends far beyond the stereotype that cones along with being a collegiate QB at a Big Ten school (aka “BMOC”).  Kain brings a spirit and fun factor that translates through a TV screen. In person you can feel it as well. As a fan, we’ve begun to train ourselves to the game within the game of watching and thinking “OK, where is #2 on this play?”.   “Cute” isn’t mutually exclusive from awe-inspiring and that is just what has so many of us excited about 2012.

The conventional question mark in the Northwestern and college football community has been Kain’s downfield passing. There is merit to this. It’s been well-documented that Kain had a shoulder injury in high school that limited his passing ability. Plus, the caveat to the triple 500 club stats from above that was missing was that he was our BACK-UP QB in 2011. With only 81 passes in an entire season and the  majority of these throws coming in the first three games of the season (24 vs BC, 13 vs EIU, 23 vs Army) the judgment pool is a little thin.  Kain won me over as a leader after the Army game. He had a very poor game. He knew it, we knew it, Army knew it. Mick McCall and Fitz were too slow to pull him and put Trevor Siemien in the game despite the fact everyone in that stadium could feel it just wasn’t Kain’s day.  He was 12-23 passing, but he was simply off. Kain stepped up after the game and shouldered ALL the blame of the loss. This was obviously not the case, but his willingness to step up and say what he said had me as “all in” from that point forward. That performance hung a cloud of question marks among fans.  With each passing week Kain’s versatility would slowly erase the pain of the Army game.  Dan Persa worked his way back to full-time QB and Kain became spot duty QB and more often than not it was a designed run out of the QB spot. Kain was turning heads with his running and getting fans off their feet with incredible catches like the bomb he caught at Iowa or his play against Michigan. He put up triple digit receiving yards against Indiana and the silver lining of a season that was never quite fully Dan Persa at 100% is we enter a season with a seasoned QB ready to go.  In the MCCOT bowl game Colter did all sorts of nifty things, but fans, self included remember Kain overthrowing a wide-open Jacob Schmidt during a comeback that brought you back to the downfield touch/accuracy question mark. However, I have faith in Kain for 2012.

To be fair, I have faith in Mick McCall who despite not figuring out how to transform our highly productive yardage in to a higher point per game result has been magnificent in developing QBs within the NU spread offense. We recently put the RB position under the microscope and tried to explain some disturbing trends. Well, the QB position at NU has become “our” position in the Big Ten. The productivity and transition from CJ Bacher in 2008 to Mike Kafka in 2009 to Dan Persa in 2010 and Persa/Colter in 2011 has been nothing short of spectacular.  We’re coming off a season where  our fearless leader, Dan Persa, admitted to being nowhere close to 100%, yet beat his own NCAA passing record for accuracy (73.5%).  There is a trend among fans that in retrospect is downright humorous.

When CJ Bacher got injured in the 2008 Indiana game,  the questions about “can Kafka pass downfield” came to light. Kafka would go on to set the then Big Ten QB rushing record with a 218-yard ass-whooping of Minnesota which I’ll never forget. He also threw a couple of brilliant passes including an over-the-shoulder TD to Jeremy Ebert that seemed to say to me “any questions?”. Yet, the off-season bantering about Kafka’s passing persisted and in 2009 he put all doubt to rest by leading us to a January 1 date with Auburn in the Outback Bowl.  You’ll remember that Kafka went down when we were beating Penn State on Halloween that year and Dan Persa got thrust in to the game against his childhood favorite team. Persa struggled in that game and much like Kain Colter post Army took 100% of the blame and was so over-the-top hard on himself it was hard not to instantly root for the guy. Persa filled in for Kafka in a clutch situation a week later at Iowa and delivered a third down strike while taking a vicious hit that was a not-so-subtle message that everything would be just fine in 2010. The question on Persa was “yeah, but can he throw downfield?” Back-to-back NCAA accuracy record setting seasons later and I think it is time we trust the system.  Kain Colter is going to be able to throw just fine.

Colter threw at a 67% clip in his limited passing last season.  The conventional point, counter point is that “he’ll be fine because our system dictates 5-10 yard passing routes (Dan Persa averaged 8.0 yards per attempt in 2011, Colter averaged 8.3 ypa) while others will retort with “yeah, but can he make that downfield throw to stretch the “D” ?”.  At this point, Mick McCall has earned my trust in developing top tier Big Ten QBs.  All eyes will be on our OL this year as the ‘Cats boast the best and deepest WR corps we’ve ever had. It happens to be extremely underrated as many have forgotten about Tony Jones and I’m confident (for no reason than I’m being positive and looking at NCAA trends) that 5-star WR/USC transfer Kyle Prater will get to play. Even if Prater doesn’t get cleared, we will be loaded at WR.

You can bet after last year’s Heisman campaign for Dan Persa which fizzled after Persa reinjured himself in the summer, there will not be Heisman hype for Kain Colter. However, you won’t be able to see any messaging publicly on billboards, digital advertising or other that doesn’t feature Kain Colter.  The guy is going to sell tickets in 2012 and beyond.  My hunch is that by any metric we can conjure up, by the time Kain is done at NU he will be up there in the top five alltime fan favorite category. Whether we measure this by jersey sales, applause at reunions or visitors on a website to read an interview, Kain’s “it factor” is real.

Speaking of Moving Tickets…

We added a pair to the LTP Season Ticket Challenge thanks to Todd E. who upgraded his pair of season tickets to a four pack. Well done Todd and thanks for getting us THIS close to 25% of our 200 ticket goal. Tivo the Nebraska game today, invite some friends over and share some Kain Colter highlights, cut and paste the above post and let’s get past the 50 ticket mark. Email me at with some more season ticket sales news!

  • Wildcat86

    Not surprising, ESPN ranks NU’s football facilities dead last in the B1G. It’s been over a year and a half since the facilities masterplan was announced. It’s getting more absurd by the day that we still haven’t heard anything about it yet. I fully understand it requires the Board of Trustees approval, etc, but it’s getting laughable. We can’t have Fitz out on the recruiting trail promising something that is taking THIS long to come to fruition (and my fruition, I mean only the plan for what’s coming, not even actual implementation of the plan; at this rate we’ll be lucky if we seen anything done by 2018 home game with TTFSB). DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING!

    • Steve Z

      I agree. There were multiple articles today about facilities/upgrades on the Big 10 blog – a glaring reminder of the lack of any announcement from Northwestern.

    • skepticat

      And next-to-last? Wisconsin. And we all know how their football program has struggled over the last decade or so.

      • cebpd

        Have you ever been to Madison? The girls? the campus? The social scene? Have you seen their game day atmosphere?

        • skepticat

          Hmmm…. perhaps that’s what’s got the Board of Trustees moving so slowly then: wrestling with whether to shell out tens of millions of dollars for new athletic facilities, or to just simply admit hotter girls and promote more partying on campus.

          Tough call…. :-/

  • Mark

    The only QB in the Big Ten that, in my opinion, is better is Robinson. None of the returning QBs had a better pass completion %age, none had a better TD/Int ratio, none had a better rushing avg., and none were more important to their team.

    You can make an argument about the TD/int ratio, given Colter’s was 6/1. The only two even close are Vandenberg, 25/7, and Miller, 13/4.

    I too have confidence that NU will continue to have highly productive QB play as their recruitment selection process, scheme and surrounding personnel all support it.

  • Scooter

    So, I like Colter, I think he’s definitely a winner, and a good football player. I’m happy with him at QB. I prefer Siemian, personally, I think he’s been incredibly good in the limited action we see him in. Sure, the coaches see him in practice every day, so they have a better perspective, so if they think Kain’s the guy, that’s fine.

    What concerns me is that they’ll attempt to go QB by committee. I’d be fine with Trevor as the main QB, and Kain as goal-line/short-yardage, or other situational approaches, but if we start with “Trevor = pass, Kain = run”, we’re screwed. Our play-calling is really, really predictable (I don’t think we’ve ever called a pass with the lead and the ball late in the game). So I don’t trust the coaches at all to handle a QB platoon in a non-predictable way (plus all of the normal objections about guys getting into rhythm etc)

    • cebpd

      they will do that, because the coaches will pass when kain is in and run when trevor is in.

      however, I am kind of a stalwart of the saying, “if you have 2 QB’s, you have no QB’s”

      we have one of the best and deepest big ten WR corps, why dont we use it like the Patriots do?

      Trevor needs to be full time.

      • Make Some Noyes

        I agree, he’s got the stronger and more accurate arm. Regardless of what the situation is at the beginning of the season, I think by the end it’ll be almost exclusively Siemian. I don’t think Kain’s diminutive frame can survive an entire season of Big Ten play considering his style of play. Persa had a hard enough time dealing with the physical toll of Big Ten play, and Kain’s nowhere near as strong. Unfortunately he’s gonna get tossed around like a rag doll.

  • cat

    While this post in inspiring, his preseason performance was the exact opposite. I also find it hard to believe that people just assume because we have a pedigree of developing qb’s (bacher, kafka, persa,) that colter will automatically mimic them.

    My bet is colter is pulled within the first 3 games when a defense shifts to cover 0 and contains him in the pocket much like army and several other defenses did at the end of last year.

    I think its also an important point to recognize that respect is due to kain for putting up the numbers he did at multiple positions especially in big games (nebraska). However, many if not all of the games, defenses were preparing exclusively for Dan Persa, and when a defense has a week to prepare for a player, the outcome can be much different.

    Lastly, teams need to play to their strengths, and we have arguably the best WR corp in the big 10 and northwestern history. Failure to utilize the “group” because of stubbornness to play 1 player is an indicator of bad coaching and a record.

    Either way GO CATS!