Each day since the injury, the 6'1, 210-lb quarterback has done everything he can to speed up his rehabilitation process. During spring practice, Persa spends the beginning portion of the practice session working on his rehab with the Northwestern strength and conditioning staff. When that is completed, he's off to the weight room for strength training. When that is finally done, Persa comes out to the practice field and becomes an additional quarterbacks coach—helping Kain Colter, Evan Watkins, and Trevor Siemian during practice.
"At this point, he's probably getting annoying," joked Pat Fitzgerald." He's probably on them too much."
As soon as practice ends, Persa is back to work. He goes back to rehab, and then goes in for his second workout of the day. When that's finally done, he goes to study film.
This is a normal day of rehab for Dan Persa.
The senior quarterback is doing everything he can to get back at full strength, but the road to recovery has been a long and difficult one.
"It's not easy, he's the ultimate competitor," Fitzgerald said of Persa's rehab. "His attitude is great, and that's all you can ask. It's not a question of work ethic—he's getting in (the weight room) getting two workouts a day, strength and conditioning, and rehab. If anything, we got to back him down a little bit and make sure he's not going too hard."
The head coach has a legitimate concern. Persa is a workout addict, which is normally a good thing. Yet when recovering from a major injury, one would be best to proceed with caution.
So is Fitzgerald worried about his quarterback overdoing it?
"Always, always, I'm always worried about that," Fitzgerald said. "If he crosses the line, I'll put him in a little detention and take away his pass to the weight room. He's been good so far."
Persa's incredible work ethic is what brought him to a career year in 2010. At the time of his injury, the junior had completed 73.5% of his passes, thrown for more than 2,500 yards, and had just thrown for his 15th touchdown pass of the season. But that season was cut short.
Now, he wants to get back on the field, and that wait has not been easy for the quarterback who has never endured an injury of this nature.
"It's tough not being out there," Persa said. "My whole life I've been out there, I've never really been hurt. Not being able to do stuff is a humbling experience."
Instead, Persa is left on the sidelines of the Wildcats' practices—donning an orange jersey and no helmet.
However, this new experience of watching practice may be a blessing in disguise for both Persa and the Wildcats' three other quarterbacks.
With Persa serving the role of a coach during the spring, the Colter, Watkins, and Siemian have admitted to benefitting from the returning starter's advice. And though he would rather be in uniform with the team, Persa also believes he has learned a lot as well.
"It's definitely a learning experience stepping back and telling them what they're doing wrong and doing right," Persa said. "It's a good experience, but I don't like it that much."
Thus far, Persa has been ahead of schedule for his entire rehabilitation process. Most importantly, he's been able to push himself without hurting himself, leaving the team feeling encouraged about his progress.
"He's so far ahead of what we expected him to be doing," said Fitzgerald. "He's doing really well."