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Pillote: The incredible journey of Trevor Siemian

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

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Trevor Siemian did what all too many of us fret about — peak in his junior year of college.

And yet here we are, three years later, on the cusp of the former Northwestern player earning one of the most coveted distinctions in American sports: starting NFL quarterback. It’s like when that guy on your freshman hall who went out five nights a week somehow ends up with a White House internship.

So how did we get here?

Siemian always had potential. The three-star recruit out of football-rich Florida rated as the 26th-best pro-style passer in his class, and frequently flashed potential his sophomore and junior seasons as he switched off snaps with the more run-oriented Kain Colter. Siemian capped the Wildcats’ disastrous 2013 campaign with a blistering 414 yards passing and 4 touchdowns in a win over rival Illinois, leaving little doubt that he would be The Guy as a full-time starter his senior year.

Then came the ankle injury. And the benching. And the fall-down. To put a sour cherry on top of another losing season, Siemian tore his ACL in what was supposed to be his penultimate college game — seemingly ending any hope of making the jump to the NFL.

But instead of pointing fingers, I choose to remember Trevor fondly. Remember that he was instrumental in delivering the best NU win in recent memory: a stunning 43-40 overtime upset of Notre Dame during the otherwise forgettable 2014 season. There was also the Illinois game, as well as a solid 12-for-20 outing in the 2013 Gator Bowl to help deliver the Cats their first postseason win since 1949.

And that Michigan game, as disastrous as it was, at least raised NU’s profile by being perhaps the worst college football game ever played.

Against that backdrop and against all odds, Siemian found himself drafted with the 250th pick by none other than the Denver Broncos, a franchise home to two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history: then-starter Peyton Manning and former player and current general manager John Elway. The pair of former signal callers has four Super Bowl championships combined. Siemian has a Jostens ring from the Gator Bowl.

As a rookie, Siemian managed to win a spot on the roster and even took a real-life NFL snap, dutifully kneeling down – he’s quite good at that – when both Manning and then-backup Brock Osweiler were hurt.

And now, somehow, he’s emerged as the leader to start for the Broncos over two former first round draft picks, each with a far superior college resume to Siemian. If “Touchdown Trevor” ends up taking Denver’s opening week snap, he’d be the first NU alum to start the opening game for an NFL team since Otto Graham in 1955.

Saying “NFL starting quarterback Trevor Siemian” still feels unnatural, but it’s definitely something longtime NU fans should bask in while they can.

In fact, Siemian should be an inspiration to us all: You, too, can stumble your way through college and still make it to the job of your dreams. Just like Siemian, maybe the girl in your economics lecture who browses BuzzFeed for an hour and 20 minutes straight is on to something.

Email: bpillote@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @BobbyPillote

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