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Trevor Siemian is an NFL starting quarterback: How it happened and what it means for Northwestern

Just like that, Trevor Siemian is the starting QB of the defending Super Bowl champs. What does it mean for Northwestern?

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

As Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak made official today, Trevor Siemian is the Broncos’ starting quarterback. But the position of Broncos starting QB this season holds a greater allure than the same role for other teams—the same job in two different organizations often carries different weight.

Siemian is the first QB in NFL history to start the season for the defending Super Bowl champs with zero NFL regular season passes thrown to that date. To say he lacks experience is the understatement of the century. His touchdown-to-interception ratio at Northwestern was 27-to-24 (7-to-11 his senior season). His college career included plays like this (go to the 0:40 mark). But somehow, Siemian is the heir to Peyton Manning’s throne in Denver and quarterbacking for the defending champs. He’ll trot out next Thursday night in Denver to a raucous crowd national television and go up against his counterpart for Carolina, Cam Newton, and an elite Panthers defense. The opening-night Thursday home game has been quarterbacked by names like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson in recent years. Add Trevor Siemian to that list. And his first test will be a doozy, against a team that went 15-1 in the regular season last year.

Months ago, he was the unlikeliest of choices. First, Brock Osweiler was set to take over. He’s in Houston now. Then, Denver signed Mark Sanchez and drafted Paxton Lynch. They’ll be sitting behind Siemian now.

But don’t look at this as a fluke. The Broncos are an organization overflowing with offensive genius. The man in charge: GM and Hall of Fame QB John Elway. Gary Kubiak himself played QB for the Broncos, as Elway’s backup. He has worked closely with legends Steve Young and Elway himself. And Siemian had a year under the tutelage of both him and Manning. In a sentence, the men running the Broncos know quarterbacks. And they’ve decided Trevor Siemian is theirs.

For Northwestern, this is everything. The Wildcats haven’t seen one of their own start under center for an NFL team since Randy Dean started one game for the Giants in 1979. He completed 10 of 22 passes for 90 yards, no touchdowns and two picks in the start after he started two games the previous season. Safe to say Siemian hopes for more success. Otto Graham, the fourth overall pick in the 1944 NFL Draft, played at Northwestern. He’s a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was a three-time NFL MVP and NFL Champion in the 1950s for the Cleveland Browns. His last start—and the most recent start from a former NU QB on opening weekend—came in 1955.

And in an era of Northwestern football defined by ups-and-downs—by 10-win seasons followed by two 5-7 ones, by losses in bowl games and by losses to teams like Ohio State and Michigan on the biggest of stages—the ability to look up to the NFL ranks and see one of their own starting for a very good NFL team is remarkable.

Northwestern now has a starting quarterback in the NFL. Only 30 schools can say that. Among those are five Big Ten schools: Michigan (Tom Brady), Wisconsin (Russell Wilson), Michigan State (Kirk Cousins), Purdue (Drew Brees) and now, Northwestern with Siemian. Northwestern now boasts more NFL starting quarterbacks than Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, LSU, and Notre Dame combined.

Team Number of Starting NFL QBs
Northwestern 1
Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Clemson, Notre Dame 0

Yes, it’s a silly stat to draw out when the numbers are 1 and 0, but it’s relevant. Having a starting NFL QB—especially if he has NFL success—goes a long way to legitimize a program. Recruits want to play in the NFL, and Northwestern now has 13 players on NFL rosters, with Siemian now as the main attraction. He’s the starting QB for the defending champs.

Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian has arrived.

Let that sink in. And let the journey begin.