Every year, between the end of spring practice and the beginning of fall camp, college football writers are searching for something — anything — to write about. And once all of the "way too early bowl projections" are out of the way, it's time to go back to those recorders and see what they missed. The answer? It's always "leadership." Every year, someone from every media organization writes something about how a veteran player is "looking to step up as a leader" the next season. We're guilty of doing this too. But the thing is, "leadership" articles do nothing but fill up space. They're great PR for the program, sure, but they have absolutely no substantive value.
So, to spare you all from having to read a bunch of "leadership" articles from us this offseason, we're going to write one today that gives you your leadership fix for the entire offseason. Hope you learn a lot. [Note: This is a parody. These are not real quotes. Please do not come to us and tell us these are not real quotes because we know they're not.]
Three years ago, after a disappointing 6-6 season, Trevor Siemian watched as his veteran teammates tried to pick up the pieces. The Wildcats had been dreaming of a January bowl berth behind veteran quarterback Dan Persa and star wide receiver Jeremy Ebert. But after a string of second half collapses, they barely made a bowl game.
A year later, behind the veteran leadership of Quentin Williams, David Nwabuisi and Patrick Ward, NU was celebrating its first bowl win since 1949.
"I learned a lot from those guys," Siemian said. "They taught me how to fight through adversity and really showed me what it's like to be a leader and a winner."
Flash forward to 2014 and it's Siemian's turn to lead a turnaround. The Wildcats finished a dismal 5-7 last season, failing to make a bowl game in a year many fans thought would end in Pasadena. In a quiet locker room after NU's seventh straight loss — a divided locker room, one could surmise, since Kain Colter would attempt to unionize the players months later — Siemian knew what he had to do.
"After 5-7, you can get really introspective," he said. "You really take a long look inside yourself and think about why you want to play in the first place. I just realized I needed to start having fun again, and I've definitely felt I've boosted my game this spring now that I'm enjoying the sport again."
But this isn't all about Siemian. He has to teach the young guys on the team to bring a similar attitude.
"It's up to me, as a team leader, to guide them along," he said.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald knows that Siemian will be equal to the task.
"Trevor's just a terrific young man," Fitzgerald said. "We saw this when we recruited him. He was a captain in high school, and ever since he's gotten on campus, he's really grown as a leader and a guy our younger players can respect. That's a quality we look for in all of our young men when we recruit them. We want young men who have been captains in high school because they're usually high character guys that can represent our team well on and off the field. And Trevor is just an exemplary young man among all young men."
Siemian isn't alone though. All of Northwestern's veterans know they need to step up as leaders if the team is to make a run.
"It's really important for me to show the young guys how to work," center Brandon Vitabile said. "We didn't have the year we wanted to last year, but it's a process, and I think my skills as a leader — along with Trevor, Venric and Treyvon — can help this team meet our goals."