NU launches Persa Heisman campaign

Northwestern placed a Heisman billboard for Dan Persa on the Kennedy Expressway. Scott Powers, ESPNChicago.com

Northwestern launched Wildcats senior quarterback Dan Persa’s Heisman Trophy campaign on Monday.

The campaign will be centered around the phrase “PersaStrong” and will include a PersaStrong hashtag on Twitter to promote Persa facts, conversation and buzz among football fans and media as well as a website (persastrong.com).

“We talked a little bit about what makes him special,” Northwestern senior associate athletic director for external affairs Mike Polisky said. “He’s really known on our team as the pound-for-pound best player. When they came to me with the concept, I loved it.

“We’ve just had some fun with it. He’s a legitimate candidate. Dan’s earned the right to be a legitimate candidate with his play, and we not only felt an obligation to him, but also an excitement to grab as much attention as possible.”

Select media members were sent a Heisman campaign mailing, which includes two seven-pound purple dumbbells that are intended to represent Persa’s jersey number and him being the pound-for-pound top quarterback.

Billboards of Persa’s candidacy have also been placed in Chicago on the Kennedy Expressway and in Bristol, Conn., the home of ESPN’s headquarters.

“We wanted to separate ourselves a little bit from what they’ve traditionally done with campaigns,” Polisky said. “Perhaps we were pandering with the folks at Bristol. We hadn’t heard of anyone doing that before.”

Persa completed 222 of 302 passes for 2,581 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions last season. He also rushed for 519 yards and nine touchdowns. He missed Northwestern’s final three games due to an injury.

Persa recently downplayed his candidacy.

“It’s an honor to be mentioned with that,” said Persa during the Big Ten media days. “But I think any personal award is for the team. We’re going to have to have a really good year.

“It’s tough for me to worry about that and play and try to win the Heisman. I’m trying to play to win games, not win awards. When you play to win games, the awards kind of take care of themselves.”

Polisky had a more direct goal.

“We hope this is just the beginning of a story that’s going to end in New York City,” Polisky said.