Trevor Siemian steps up as Northwestern's leader

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Trevor Siemian

Trevor Siemian (13), wrapped-up during football practice at University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha. (Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune / August 12, 2014)

Trevor Siemian's teammates use a variation of the same word to describe him: "goofy."

"He's definitely a goofball," receiver Miles Shuler said, "always pulling pranks and telling jokes."

Said receiver Cam Dickerson: "The goofiest thing about Trevor is that he's always smiling. And regardless of what's going on he always has something clever to say."

Even with that in mind, Siemian caught people off-guard at Northwestern media day.

Center Brandon Vitabile was at the podium, discussing the difference in styles between former quarterback Kain Colter and Siemian, now the full-time starter.

"Trevor is more likely to get rid of the ball and not try to take off down the field," Vitabile said. "So I'm aware that I have to be really good at the point of attack, give him some time …"

Siemian jumped in and cut him off: "I don't know about that."

Everyone laughed because Siemian is hardly fleet of foot. Asked later if he had ever been timed in the 40-yard dash, Siemian said he had: "I think it was 4.38."

He delivered the line so dryly one blogger wrote it as fact. If it were true, Siemian would be the Michael Vick of the Big Ten.

"Trevor is funny, full of personality, always a good time," receiver Tony Jones said. "At times it was hard to take him seriously because he was always playing around."

OK, Siemian can put those around him at ease with his quick wit, but does that translate into success as a quarterback? And does a team leader want to be labeled a goofball?

"Trevor has always been a locker-room favorite," Vitabile said. "He says, 'You know I'm a big goofball.' But when it comes down to it he'll try to run over the biggest defensive lineman. He will do anything for the team."

Siemian will need to do anything — and in some cases everything — for the Wildcats to win big this season.

When running back Venric Mark bolted, the Wildcats lost their proven big-play threat. They also lost receiver Christian Jones, who caught 13 Siemian passes for 182 yards at Illinois last season, to knee surgery.

On top of that Siemian has no safety net. Redshirt junior Zack Oliver, who has thrown four career passes, has the edge at second string over redshirt freshman Matt Alviti.

So it all falls on the shoulders of the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Siemian. Not that you'll ever see him look nervous.

"One of his best attributes as a quarterback is that he's the most even-keel person you will ever meet," said Todd Siemian, Trevor's older brother. "You won't see much expression, to the point where people perceive that as not being enthusiastic.

"He reminds me of Eli Manning, where you don't know if he's playing in the Super Bowl or a preseason game. Trevor is steady in those difficult situations."

Siemian lit it up in NU's first five games last season, completing 60 of 88 passes for 916 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

Then came NU's darkest day — a 35-6 blitzing at Wisconsin. Mark hobbled off the field. Colter injured an ankle. And no one outside the program knew it at the time, but Siemian suffered a bone bruise on his heel.

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