NU's Persa doing what he can to help

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Injured Northwestern junior quarterback Dan Persa may not be able to contribute first downs and touchdowns at the TicketCity Bowl on Saturday, but the Wildcats' captain will attempt to assist in every other way while in Dallas.

After rupturing his Achilles tendon against Iowa on Nov. 13, Persa attended Northwestern's final two regular-season games against Illinois and Wisconsin, but being on crutches immobilized him, and he felt useless on the sideline.

Since then, Persa's recovery has progressed. Ahead of schedule, he recently ditched the crutches and was upgraded to a walking boot. While he isn't flying around as he did on the field for Northwestern this season, he still has a quick step and can get around with ease.

On Saturday, Persa plans to make his way up and down Northwestern's sideline, encouraging his teammates and doing whatever he can to help the team's two young quarterbacks: Redshirt freshman Evan Watkins and freshman Kain Colter.

"The past few games I've pretty much been immobile, so I couldn't say too much to them," said Persa, who was an All-Big Ten first-team selection by the conference coaches. "Hopefully, I'll be able to say more to them during the bowl game.

"It's weird, because you can't say as much because you're just not playing. You can talk to the guys kind of behind the scenes on the field, but you can only say so much because you're not out there. That's the hardest part."

Not playing has been a struggle for Persa, but he's come to terms with the situation.

"I want to be out there," Persa said. "I want to play, but I know I can't. I've kind of accepted that and moved on from that."

Persa has taken a few positives from his experience. For one, he's learned the game he loves can be taken away from him just like that.

"You never know when it's going to end," Persa said. "It's obviously not ending for me, but you never know when the season is going to end. It can happen pretty quick."

Persa can now walk without the boot, but feels more protected with it. He expected to remove the boot for good in about three weeks and should be ready for a spring practice return.