"To have a Heisman Trophy candidate come back at quarterback for us is something that gives me a little extra sleep at night," said Fitzgerald
Northwestern has never had a Heisman Trophy winner, and only once has had a player invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony—Darnell Autry in 1996. But if anybody knows about Autry's Heisman bid, it's his former teammate, Pat Fitzgerald. Now, the former Northwestern linebacker and current head coach has a high praise for his quarterback, and Persa doesn't mind it.
"That's pretty cool," Persa said of his coach's high claim. "Obviously, it's a pretty prestigious award. To be mentioned for that is an honor, but at the end of the day, that's something that's out of my control. I'm more focused on what I can control."
This is just another high expectation for the Wildcat quarterback, but it's definitely a realistic possibility. In 2010, Persa had a 73.5% completion percentage, and was on pace to throw for 3,355 yards—both were higher than Heisman winner Cam Newton. He also would've finished with more than 31 total touchdowns.
Persa's 2010 season was good enough for First-Team All-Big Ten honors, and was arguably good enough for the quarterback to receive an invitation to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. But that season came to an early end, and now Persa is working to get back on the field for the Wildcats' first game against the Golden Eagles.
"I'm really happy where I'm at right now," Persa said. "Tomorrow, it will be five months after my surgery. Hopefully, I have a next strong month. After that, I'll be back to where I want to be."
Throughout the Wildcats' spring practice sessions, Persa has split time in the workout room, the training room, and on the practice field helping his teammates. While Persa works on his rehabilitation, Fitzgerald and the Northwestern training staff have been monitoring the quarterback's progress, and when he will be back in uniform, with the goal of having him back on schedule.
"Myself and the athletic training staff, we sit down the week after spring ball and really project out when we expect guys to be cleared to full (practice)," Fitzgerald said. "With Danny, I assuming no later than June 1st, and then be cleared to go through our summer workouts in June or July, and be ready to go with us in August."
It's been an eventful spring for Dan Persa, and he hasn't even suited up in pads and a helmet. The senior-to-be is working to be back on time, while dealing with the high praise from fans, media, and now his head coach. With a full plate in front of him, Persa is handling things well, and is expected to finish his rehab ahead of his original timeframe.
"So far so good," said Fitzgerald "The reports back that he's ahead of schedule, and I'm really proud of the work he's done."