Football: For Trevor Siemian, unremarkable not always a bad thing


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior quarterback Trevor Siemian prepares to take a snap against Purdue. Siemian injured his knee later in the game and will miss the rest of Northwestern’s season.

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor


Trevor Siemian’s college career ended on an unremarkable play.

During the second quarter of Northwestern’s win over Purdue on Saturday, the senior quarterback dove forward on a fourth-and-short quarterback sneak. It’s a play type every quarterback has run dozens of times, but on this particular instance, Siemian emerged from the pile with a season-ending injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

‘Unremarkableness’ was one of Siemian’s defining traits throughout his time at NU. Between the white lines he typically held his own but never quite distinguished himself. He didn’t possess Kain Colter’s speed or Dan Persa’s accuracy or Zack Oliver’s arm strength. He’d occasionally play the hero and occasionally serve as the punch line but spent most of his career somewhere in between.

Siemian’s off-field persona was similarly — but charmingly — unremarkable. He was the rare everyman quarterback, coming off less like the proverbial big man on campus and more like the guy down the hall.

Last week, the quarterback was asked one thing people should know about him. He stalled and stammered for about 10 seconds, then conceded.

“I’m a pretty average, boring guy,” he said. “I like playing Xbox.”

On the field, unremarkable invited controversy.

For two seasons, Siemian split playing time with Colter, as everyone to have walked through The Arch developed an opinion on when and how much each should play. This year, when Siemian finally became the Wildcats’ starter, he played poorly, prompting arguments about the team’s backups, its coaches and about the quarterback himself.

Off the field meanwhile, the closest Siemian came to scandal was last summer when he claimed to run a 4.38 40-yard dash and not everyone got the joke.

The innocuous mix-up was classic Siemian, whose sarcasm knows no boundaries. At perhaps his lowest point as NU quarterback, after tripping and falling on the last play of the game in a 10-9 loss to Michigan earlier this month, the senior cracked the driest of jokes: “I slipped, probably because I’m unathletic,” he said.

If that was Siemian’s nadir, the following week was his pinnacle.

The senior threw for 284 yards and led two clutch fourth-quarter drives to help NU topple Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

NU President Morton Schapiro was in the Cats’ locker room afterward when Siemian bounded in.

“Trevor had the biggest smile I’d ever seen,” Schapiro said.

Siemian’s performance in what turned out to be his final full game almost redeemed all the struggles that came before it. Only 117 yards passing against Western Illinois. An 8-for-18 stinker against Iowa. The infamous trip against Michigan. Practically erased from memory by completion after completion to Kyle Prater in the fourth quarter against the Fighting Irish.

That game undoubtedly belongs in the Siemian Hall of Fame, along with his game-winning touchdown pass to beat Syracuse in 2012, his 414 yards against Illinois to end the 2013 season and of course his role in NU’s Gator Bowl victory two years ago.

But Siemian won’t name any of those moments his lasting memory of his time in purple and white.

“You always hear the older guys talk about the locker room,” he said. “I maybe can’t tell you every play we ran in the Gator Bowl or I can’t tell you every touchdown I threw or anything else that happened, but I can tell you that time Tim Hanrahan showed up in his neon jacket in the locker room and everyone was making fun of him. Things like that stick with me.”

Siemian said he’s matured a lot during his five years in Evanston, from a “knucklehead” freshman who thought he knew everything to a fifth-year senior with the mentality to withstand all that comes with the quarterback position.

Amid his struggles this season, Siemian has faced criticism from an army of fans and media (The Daily included) trashing his play and calling for his benching. Throughout the ordeal, the senior hid any frustration with himself, his coaches or his critics.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald suggested earlier this season that Siemian “eats up” the criticism, but the quarterback seems to merely accept it.

“That’s kind of what you sign up for,” Siemian said. “It’s easy to kind of ride that roller coaster, but you’ve got to try to do a good job of staying in the middle.”

Siemian has not been made available to the media since his injury Saturday, but teammate and friend Brandon Vitabile said the quarterback is taking it hard.

Last week, before the fateful quarterback keeper against Purdue, Siemian said once the season was over, he would wait for word from talent evaluators, then decide whether to pursue a professional career. As for his time in Evanston, he said he has no regrets and praised his college experience in the most Siemian way possible: with a calm, level demeanor and a dash of sarcasm.

“Best four years of my life,” he said, essentially monotone. “Probably. I’m only 22.”

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Twitter: @AlexPutt02