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    BLOG: On Quarterbacks and Running Backs

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    "I'm getting trust in it," 'Cat quarterback Dan Persa will say, referring to the Achilles he ripped up last November.

    And what does he mean by that?

    "Just kind of stop thinking about it. I think that's one of the biggest hurdles with any injury of this magnitude. Once you stop feeling the pain in it, after a long stretch with no pain, you start to trust it more and you realize you can do things your body wouldn't let you do before."

    But, frankly, just trusting more is not enough, not enough if he is to perform with the alacrity he did before going down in the Iowa game.

    BLOG: Gameweek Goodies

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    WATCH: Free - P. Fitzgerald News Conference
    WATCH: Full - P. Fitzgerald News Conference

    Pat Fitzgerald News Conference -- Full Transcript

    With time ticking away before Northwestern's 2011 season opener at Boston College Saturday, NUsports.com special contributor Skip Myslenski reports on position battles, injury updates and the status of a refrigerator meant to feed six down linemen.

    Even though it's college football season that is about to kick off this week, college basketball season is not that far around the corner. In fact, preview magazines are starting to hit newsstands and Northwestern senior forward John Shurna is starting to earn accolades.

    Shurna has been tabbed a preseason second-team All-American by Sporting News as well as a first-team All-Big Ten selection. He is joined on the All-America second team by Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor, Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, Kansas forward Thomas Robinson and North Carolina center Tyler Zeller.

    The first team consists of Connecticut guard/forward Jeremy Lamb, North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes, Kentucky forward Anthony Davis, Baylor forward Perry Jones III and Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger.

    A two-time All-Big Ten pick, Shurna was one of the nation's top scorers during the nonconference portion of the 2010-11 season as he averaged 24.4 points per game in the Wildcats' first nine contests. An ankle injury suffered in the last game prior to the start of conference play limited him the rest of the season but he finished with averages of 16.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 43.4 percent from three-point range. Shurna was named to the watch list for the Naismith Award last season as well as being a member of the Wooden Award Midseason Top 30 list. He enters his senior year 524 points shy of surpassing Billy McKinney as NU's all-time leading scorer.

    Sporting News selects Northwestern to finish seventh in the Big Ten this season and advance to the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed. The Wildcats are coming off their second-consecutive 20-win season while advancing to the quarterfinal round of the National Invitation Tournament a year ago.

    In addition to Jones being named a first-team All-American, NU will also face a third-team preseason All-America pick in nonconference play in Creighton sophomore forward Doug McDermott. Three of the Wildcats' nonconference foes are picks to win their respective leagues: Baylor (Big 12), Creighton (Missouri Valley) and Stony Brook (America East). Northwestern could face a fourth if it meets VCU (Coloniel) in the Charleston Classic.

    The Wildcats open their 2011-12 regular season Nov. 13 when they host Texas-Pan American at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
    Ann Elliott has been a part of multiple NCAA women's lacrosse championships as a player and a coach at Northwestern. But recently she took on a whole new challenge, traveling to Uganda with Fields of Growth International to teach the game of lacrosse to young players. Skip Myslenski sat down with Elliott to recap her amazing experience.

    Ann in Uganda copy 2.JPG

    You are Ann Elliott and you are far removed from your day job as an assistant coach of the women's lacrosse team at Northwestern University. You are instead on a tour of the Bwindi Impenetrable Rain Forest in Southwest Uganda in East Africa, where you are now marveling at the dexterity of your ancient guide. His name is James and he's a Batwa pygmy and even though you have heard he is 78-years old, he is now flitting like a mythical faun through the dense foliage of this place...

    We have a new group of National Pro Fastpitch Champions.

     

    And former Wildcats Robin Thompson and Tammy Williams are among the heralded.

     

    On Sunday, Aug. 21, the Chicago Bandits beat the USSSA Florida Pride 10-3 in the second game of a best-of-three series to win their second postseason title in franchise history. Williams went 1-for-4 at the plate and scored a run, while Thompson also scored after being inserted into the game to pinch run. Former Northwestern softball coach Lauren Lappin also played second base in the game for the Pride squad.

    BLOG: The Specimen du Jour

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    He has been The Lab Rat of the Preseason, the Specimen du Jour whose every action has been monitored and analyzed and slipped under the microscope. The number of reps he takes. The accuracy of his throws. The strength of his arm. His mobility in the pocket. That limp he walks with when he's over there on the sideline. All that and more have been objects of scrutiny, which is what inevitably happens when the subject under consideration is his team's star and starting quarterback.

    Ruchim Earns First-Team Summer All-America Honors

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    Summertime is a chance for collegiate baseball players to get away from their university surroundings and hone their craft on a different stage. For the Northwestern baseball program, no one performed at a higher level than rising sophomore Kyle Ruchim (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) this summer.

    The second baseman/right-handed pitcher was rewarded for his stellar play with the Glens Falls (N.Y.) Golden Eagles of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL) by being named a first-team summer All-American by Perfect Game USA. The recognition covers all collegiate summer baseball leagues in the nation.

    Ruchim was recognized as a utility player for his efforts as both a position player and on the mound. At the plate, Ruchim led Glen Falls with 16 doubles, 55 hits, 37 runs scored and 19 multi-hit games while ranking second on the team with a .333 batting average, nine home runs and a .552 slugging percentage. His 27 RBI ranked third on the squad. As a pitcher, he sported a 3-0 record with a 2.05 ERA and a team-record nine saves. Ruchim struck out a ridiculous 43 batters in 22 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters posted a mere .175 average.

    His efforts helped the Golden Eagles to East Division-leading record of 31-17. He was named to the PGCBL all-league first team as well as the Rising Stars team for his efforts.

    BLOG: Scattershots from Tuesday's Practice

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    * Tuesday morning, during seven-on-seven drills, quarterback Dan Persa was sharper than the tongue of an acidic critic. But later, as he moved along the right sideline, there was an obvious limp to his step. "It's not a limp. Trust me. It's not," 'Cat coach Pat Fitzgerald would later declare. "When you watch him, it's the times he's just walking around (that the limp is obvious). Being in the (walking) boot, being in a different kind of shoe (while rehabbing his right Achilles). You guys, you've got a lot of time on your hands to be noticing the way people are walking. That's OK."

    BLOG: The Story of Schmidt

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    He is the anti-Kardashian, a remnant of an age not as gilded as the present, a throwback to those days when players toiled selflessly and eschewed celebrating even minor successes with primping, posturing and preening. He reflects substance, recalls the image of the honest laborer, embodies that performer who is diligent and disciplined, dependable and devoted to doing even the tiniest thing right.

    Men's Soccer Cruises Past Wheaton in Exhibition Finale

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    Northwestern men's soccer closed out its exhibition season Friday evening at Lakeside Field, downing Division III foe Wheaton College, 5-0. The teams played two 45-minute periods, followed by a 30-minute period that featured mainly reserves.

     

    The Wildcats dominated possession over the opening 45 minutes of play, holding an 8-3 edge in shots. Sophomores Reed Losee and Lepe Seetane each barely missed out on scoring opportunities before NU finally cashed with in one second shy of 10 minutes remaining in the opening stanza. Nick Gendron, who had entered the game as a substitute just one minute earlier, finished in front of the goal from five yards out off assists from Seetane and Layth Masri to give Northwestern the lead.

     

    Sophomore Tommy Tombridge got the start in goal for the Wildcats and made one terrific leaping save, punching the ball over the top off the crossbar.

     

    NU was able to pull away midway through the second half. Sophomore Scott Lakin headed home a service from Losee at the back post at the 66:28 mark to make it 2-0 in the hosts' favor. Just over three minutes later, freshman Jagger Martinez made his presence felt by putting home a feed from Peter O'Neill to extend the Wildcats' lead to three.

     

    Losee finished off the scoring with just over 17 minutes remaining when he made it 4-0. Masri was credited with his second assist of the match on the play.

     

    Northwestern out-shot Wheaton 15-4 over the opening 90 minutes of play. Jonathan Harris worked the first 41:30 of the second half in goal, while freshman Tyler Miller worked the final 3:30, as well as the final 30-minute period.

     

    Freshman Eric Weberman tallied the lone goal of the final stanza, ripping a shot inside the near post from 15 yards out with senior Lucas Swertloff earning an assist. The 'Cats held a 5-2 advantage in shots in the last period, including a pair that hit the crossbar.

     

    Northwestern opens its 2011 regular season next Friday, Aug. 26 as it hosts Eastern Illinois. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. at Lakeside Field.

     

    VIDEO: Kafka Looks to Soar with Eagles

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    Former Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka had an outstanding performance for the Philadelphia Eagles last night in a NFL preseason game against Pittsburgh. Playing the fourth quarter, Kafka completed 14-of-19 passes for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns, earning a quarterback rating of 133.7 -- by far the highest of any Eagles quarterback in the game.

    BLOG: Diversions and Observations

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    Photo Gallery: Thursday Practice

    CAMP DIVERSION I:
    The 'Cats are two-thirds through their Thursday practice up in Kenosha when the whistle signaling a liquid break finally blows. Now they scurry to the appointed place for some sweet relief and soon enough they are lined up in order, seniors up front, juniors behind them and on back to the lonely-and-lost freshmen. Here some helmets are off, and others are propped atop heads, and countess faces feature fatigue and almost all of the jerseys, so pristine just 90 minutes earlier, are soaked through with the honest sweat that accompanies willful labor. Just give me a Gatorade, each 'Cat seems to be silently screaming.

    But that is not what they get.

    Kaylee's Corner: A New Perspective

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    Kaylee Pohlmeyer web.JPGJust 10 days away from our opening game against Kent State, the 'Cats field hockey team is starting its second week of preseason. With a young squad this year, we have had intense practices and workouts to get everyone ready for a challenging season.

    My name is Kaylee Pohlmeyer, and I am No. 19 for the Wildcats. This fall will be my senior season at Northwestern, something I have been looking forward to for a long time! But it's going to be much different than I expected, for I am playing a role on the team that still hasn't sunk in quite yet. Name a position, and I have most likely played it: defense as a freshman, midfield as a sophomore, and a mix of midfield and forward as a junior. But as it turns out, I have found myself in a new position for my senior season, and that is on the sidelines.

    Camp Kenosha Update (Wednesday, Aug. 17)

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    Wednesday Morning Photo Gallery

    The first of two Wednesday practice sessions began promptly at 8:50 a.m. on the fields of UW-Parkside under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. A forecasted rain event was gobbled up by the lake, keeping the Kenosha weather perfect-as-usual for the 15 period workout. Today's observations and musings:

    Three Wildcats (Vince Browne, Jordan Mabin and Al Netter) took "veteran days" for Wednesday morning, electing to take the session off and help coach up their position groups. For every 12 starts a player makes in his career, he earns one "veteran day" off practice. So for example, three-year offensive line starter Ben Burkett (39 starts) has three such off-days accumulated for this preseason. The trio will suit up for tonight's second practice.

    Coach Fitz: "We were real physical this morning. We put the ball on the ground and got about 40 plays in. We'll focus on the kicking game more tonight." On the veterans' days: "The guy's legs are cooked and we're just grinding through camp right now. You're always going to give your veterans some time off, but the veteran's day puts the responsibility on them to communicate to their position coach when their legs need a break."

    Brian Mulroe's Purple Nurples team won this year's offseason competition known as the Wildcat Games. Their prize is significantly different than in the past when winners were excused from the conditioning test (and usually forced to sit it out after Eric Peterman's team insisted on running it anyway after the inaugural Games). The Nurples received VIP cards that get them to the front of line in the dining hall and for treatment while also getting them cart rides from the middle of the Kenosha practice fields back up to the locker room after practice. Now THAT is a valuable prize. The Nurples were exceptionally generous with their time with the Special Olympics this year, accumulating most of their winning margin through that particular community service activity.

    VIDEO: Redshirt Freshman Center Brandon Vitabile talks about his Camp Kenosha experience and some of his favorite pastimes



    In player and plays of note from Wednesday morning...

    * Dan Persa threw his vintage darts all day long, complete with the nose-down spiral that found its way to the numbers seemingly every time.

    * During interior running drills, an unseen-from-my-angle D-lineman bruised his way into the pile so ferociously that he threw an offensive lineman backward into Mike Trumpy for the tackle. Moments later, Kevin Watt bulled his way around the end for a TFL.

    * Evan Watkins was deadly on downfield throws during 7-on-7 drills. "He's having a bombs away practice" one special teams member commented from the sidelines.

    * Also during 7-on-7 play, Trevor Siemian floated a pass down the sideline that Pierre Youngblood-Ary fought threw two defenders to run under and grab for a sweet connection.

    * In TEAM full-go action, the physicality picked up even more. Mike Jensen made an ear-ringing block on the outside that sprung a teammate on a flat route, then more great blocking allowed Evan Watkins to find a seam and run un-touched 60 yards up the sideline (screaming a Ric Flair-esque "WOOOO" as he rumbled by my position beyond the chains).

    * The defensive line blew up a screen play at one point while Kain Colter was taking reps, prompting the entire defensive sideline to chant "Kain's not Abel!"

    * On an option play, linebacker Collin Ellis disrupted the pitch enough that Tyler Scott was able to leap in the backfield and intercept the ball. "Tyler is a freak. If something freakish is happening, it was probably him," said the specialists.  

    After
    some pool time this afternoon and likely a quick nap, the team will head to a local high school this evening for a turf-field practice that is completely closed to the public and the media. On Thursday, ESPN's DirecTV satellite bus will be at Northwestern's practice at UW-Parkside. NU is one of 19 schools the bus is visiting this preseason; the Wildcats will be featured on ESPNEWS and other ESPN platforms throughout the afternoon on Thursday.

    Camp Kenosha Update (Tuesday, Aug. 16)

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    Camp Kenosha Aug. 16, 2011, Photo Gallery

    After being out of town for the first two sessions of Camp Kenosha Monday, I made my way up to UW-Parkside for the first time in 2011 for Tuesday morning's single session. The walk down the gravel path leading from the main Parkside athletic building to Northwestern's very own side-by-side practice fields always strikes me as the official beginning of football season. Here are some observations from today's session:

    It was another perfect weather day in Kenosha, something the Wildcats have grown accustomed to in recent years. Temperatures were in the low 80s with virtually no clouds to be seen and a nice breeze rolling down the spectating hill and across the grass.

    VIDEO: Northwestern freshmen talk about their Camp Kenosha experience



    You want to know what makes Northwestern's practice the most high-energy workout in the nation? Picture 54-year-old offensive coordinator Mick McCall leading his QB group from one drill to the next in a dead sprint before intentionally leaping into a barrel-roll somersault to punctuate the new location, then jumping to his feet yelling "Too Much Kenosha!" That'll fire anyone up for what would be a pretty mundane passing drill at other schools.

    In actual play and player observations, a few plays stuck out. During 7-on-7 passing, Dan Persa hit Jeremy Ebert down the seam on a play that should be very familiar to Northwestern fans by now. Evan Watkins twice found Brendan Barber during the drill, once on a great touch floater over the leap of Demetrius Dugar and again in the back of the end zone. On the very first play of TEAM with full-go tackling, Jordan Mabin read a play perfectly and stopped a run deep in the backfield before several plays later stepping in front of a Kain Colter pass for a pick (Colter would run Mabin out of bounds himself).

    After practice, Coach Fitz had new starting center Brandon Vitabile break down the team huddle. He correctly pronounced his name vuh-TOB-uh-lay for those of you pronouncing at home.

    More than one support staffer commented on the "intriguing" freshman class this year, here experiencing their first Camp Kenosha. Whether or not they know where they are, some great competition is going on among the team. Stay tuned to NUsports.com for video interviews from our two-man crew here all week gathering interviews for the website and material for season two of The Pat Fitzgerald Show.

    Also, view some images from today's practice courtesy of NUsports.com. Tomorrow's action gets underway with a morning practice here at UW-Parkside before a closed-to-the-media (and everyone else) night practice.

    BLOG: Camping and Competing at Linebacker

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    Monday Practice Photo Gallery

    They know. Oh, yeah. They most certainly know, and they admit it. They, unlike so many who inhabit their little slice of the universe, do not feign ignorance and claim they never listen to the radio or watch the TV or read papers or magazines or any of the countless web sites. These linebackers do all of that and so yes, darn straight, they know just what is being said about them.

    Men's Soccer Drops Exhibition Opener to SIUE, 1-0

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    Host SIU Edwardsville got a goal in the 70th minute to edge the Northwestern men's soccer team 1-0 in the exhibition opener for both teams Sunday night at Korte Stadium in Edwardsville, Ill. The teams played two 40-minute periods as well as one additional 20-minute period that featured mostly the reserve players.

    The Wildcats were out-shot 15-6 over the 100 minutes of action with sophomore Lepe Seetane recording four of the team's shots, including two that were on goal. SIUE held a 9-2 edge in shots over the opening stanza, but redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Tommy Tombridge wasn't forced to make a save. Both of NU's shots were on frame but were stopped by Scott Meyer.

    The decisive goal came at 69:35 when Jordan Barnes scored off 10 yards out off a feed from Jared Tejada, beating Northwestern keeper Jonathan Harris. The Wildcats were never able to tally the equalizer.

    NU returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday as it closes out its exhibition season by hosting Wheaton College at Lakeside Field.

    BLOG: The Man in the Middle

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    VIDEO: Wildcats Depart for Camp Kenosha

    Its members are never as comely as those Rockettes who annually dance their way through the Christmas Spectacular at New York's Radio City Music Hall. But have no doubt about this when considering an offensive line. To be successful, its members must be every bit as attuned, every bit as cohesive, every bit as synchronized as those high steppers from the East.
    Kate Allen and Caroline Dagley each found of the back of the net Friday night as women's soccer closed its exhibition schedule with a 2-0 win over DePaul at Lakeside Field.

    Allen, who led NU in 2010 with six goals scored, got things started in the first half off a pass from freshman Katie Landgrebe. Both players hail from Ohio and are expected to be major factors in Northwestern's attack this season. Landgrebe scored NU's lone goal in its first exhibition game on Monday.

    Another freshman -- Lake Forest, Ill., native Georgia Waddle -- picked up the assist on Dagley's goal in the second half.

    Anna Cassell and Sam Hatfield combined in goal to shutout the Blue Demons. 

    "I was very pleased with the effort we put forth tonight," Northwestern Head Coach Stephanie Foster said after the game. "We have made excellent progress from Monday to Friday in our first week of fall camp."

    The 'Cats open the regular season at Marquette on Aug. 21. Northwestern will host Cincinnati, Dayton and Loyola for the Lakeside Classic on Aug. 26-28 to open the home portion of the 2011 season.

    BLOG: The Season of Swagger?

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    NU Media Day Photo Gallery

    There will be no tap dancing with words here, though there will be some quibbling over which ones best apply. The 'Cat football team that was trotted out to meet the media on Thursday has a swagger about it that is palpable. "I don't know that it's got a swagger more than a chip on its shoulder," Pat Fitzgerald, their head coach, said when asked about his team, and here was one of the quibbles.

    ON THE RECORD: Drake Dunsmore

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    He damaged his left labrum as a freshman and, following that season, had it surgically repaired. He missed the following season after tearing up his ACL and then, shortly after a torturous rehab, he broke an ankle during conditioning drills. He was diagnosed with a rare condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome before the 2009 season, but played through it before going under the knife again and having a rib removed. That forced him to enter last season after one more bout of rehabilitation, but since then he has remained healthy and so, for the first time, senior superback Drake Dunsmore is about to enter a year after going through a full off-season of conditioning. So we wondered, as we began our chat with him, if he ever thinks of that history littered behind him.

    Women's Soccer Opens Exhibition Play

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    Northwestern women's soccer opened exhibition play Monday afternoon with a 2-1 loss to Milwaukee at Lakeside Field. The early first match came after just six training sessions for the 'Cats, who opened their fall camp last Friday.

    Despite the result on the field, head coach Stephanie Foster said she was pleased with the effort she saw from her team.

    "I saw lots of positive and promising things," Foster said. "We played a lot of people and even though we're missing a few key members of our lineup right now this was a good early first look. I'm feeling like good things are emerging and it's only the fourth day of camp."

    Katie Landgrebe, a freshman from the Cincinnati suburb of Madeira, Ohio, scored Northwestern's lone goal midway through the second half. Nicole Duller sent a long pass up the middle of the field that found Landgrebe at the top of the box, and the newcomer finished with a beautiful shot from there.

    Landgrebe was a 2010 NSCAA High School All-American and is a proven scorer -- she holds the Madeira High career record with 79 goals scored.

    She's one of 10 newcomers to the Northwestern roster this fall, the majority of whom saw action in Monday's exhibition. Foster also noted the effort of fellow freshmen Sami Schrakamp (Danville, Calif./Monte Vista) and Georgia Waddle (Lake Forest, Ill./Lake Forest) after the contest.

    Monday's exhibition is the first of two for Northwestern this fall. The Wildcats officially open the 2011 season at Marquette on Aug. 21 and will host the Lakeside Classic on Aug. 26 and 28.

    Click here to see Brittany in action with Habitat for Humanity


    Hi Wildcat Fans!

    Hello from Findlay, Ohio!  I have left the big city of Evanston for the summer for an engineering internship with Marathon Petroleum Company LP (Marathon Oil Corporation and Marathon Petroleum Corporation recently split...I am now in what they call the "downstream" side of the company, Marathon Petroleum) in Findlay, OH.  I have replaced nonstop traffic and skyscrapers for peaceful open roads and farmland this summer.  It is surely an adjustment, but I have truly enjoyed my time here thus far.

    I am working in a group within Marathon Petroleum called M&TE (Marketing and Transportation Engineering).  I have been placed in a major project called the Woodhaven Flare Project, working on a site in Woodhaven, Michigan.  Working from the Findlay site, I get to examine the workings of salt caverns storing propane and butane underground, large brine tanks to supply these caverns when empty, pipeline transporting crude oil around the country, and as implied, a large flare which releases pressure within these above and below ground pipelines.  Well, needless to say, after 4 weeks of being on the job, I have sure learned a lot about big oil! One of the fun things I have been able to experience is the safety outfits required to wear when on site at one of these major facilities.  I have provided you a picture of me in my outfit for your own personal enjoyment. (See Photo Album at top)

    This past week (week 4 of my internship) has truly been the biggest test of my abilities as an engineer.  My supervisor and project manager have been on vacation for the entire week and I have been left in charge of the project to answer questions and any problems that might arise during construction.  I would've never expected this much responsibility so early on but this internship has really prepared me for my entrance into the working world within the next year.

    After working 8 am to 5 pm every day, I have still managed to get my Wildcat workouts in and even participate in other activities to keep in shape this summer.  I ran a 5 mile race on the Fourth of July and have signed up to compete in a sprint triathlon at the end of August.  I have one unique story which shows how important it is to make a good impression everywhere you go.  During my lunch hours, I am a frequent visitor at the Findlay YMCA across from Marathon Petroleum to play pickup basketball for about an hour or so.  The other day as I am leaving, I notice this man running to follow me out of the gymnasium door.  As I'm walking out he asks, "Were you at the Chicago Autism Speaks walk this spring?"  Flabbergasted, I turned and confirmed that I had been and he went on to explain that he was at that walk in Chicago and thought he recognized my face from walking on stage.  It goes to show that wherever student athletes go, we are always representing Northwestern and need to make sure we present ourselves with class. 

    Another experience I was fortunate enough to take part in while an employee at Marathon Petroleum was Habitat for Humanity.  On July 12, I took my carpentry skills to a plot of land down the road from the main Marathon Petroleum building to help construct a new home for a wonderful couple.  The week previous to the build, I was able to attend an informational session during my lunch to learn more about this couple we were working to help and about the project itself.  It tugged at my heart as this woman explained her struggles with epilepsy and the high cost of medication putting her and her husband into unstable financial grounds. 

    It was awe inspiring to see these two show up the day of construction and help me and my coworkers build the very house they would be living in.  As far as the building went, it only took me about a good 15 minutes and 3 fingers to get used to hammering nails into wood. Okay, I have to admit, I'm lying about the 3 fingers; as a basketball player, I was very precautionary in order to protect the tools which have allowed me to dribble and shoot for all of these years.  But I was able to pound nails into the very structural framework of the house and see a roof and garage get built before my very eyes.  I have included some pictures from my day of work.

    This experience not only at Habitat for Humanity but while working at Marathon Petroleum has allowed me to take a step back and realize how truly blessed I am to be a Northwestern Wildcat.  The challenges faced everyday as a college athlete while studying at one of the top academic programs in the country has prepared me well and allowed me to develop the necessary skills to become a successful engineer.

    Brittany Orban


    PersaStrong (adj.)

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    Where do words get their meaning? How are they derived?

     

    Take the word 'strong,' for example. First used by Jakob Grimm in 1841, the word comes from the Germanic base strangaz, meaning "physically powerful," "powerful in effect" and "severe."  Over time, it has been redefined by people and events; shaped and molded into various connotations.

     

    There's 'strong' in the sense of having the ability to perform physically demanding tasks and 'strength' defined by skills and qualities that enable success. There's strong impressions, strong currents, strong cups of coffee, etc etc.

     

    And then there's 'PersaStrong.'

     

    PersaStrong (adj.):

     

    1. To possess strength, determination and/or talent like that of Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa. (i.e. "There's strong, then there's PersaStrong.")

     

    2. To establish yourself as an unquestionable leader and field general, capitalizing on your innate ability to escape the pocket and turn almost certain losses into big gains.

     

    3. To expect the same excellence from your teammates as you do from yourself (i.e. watching countless hours of film with as many teammates as you can bring along), attempting to not only elevate your own game but take the entire football program to another level.

     

    4. To not be satisfied with anything less than perfection and attend as many extra workouts as possible.

     

    5. To go 19-for-21 with three touchdowns in the 2010 season opener against Vanderbilt, when few believed you'd be able to fill Mike Kafka's shoes.

     

    6. To excel on and off the field at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, earning 2010 All-Big Ten first team honors on top of Big Ten Distinguished Scholar honors and two consecutive Academic All-Big Ten honors.

     

    7. To be the first player in Northwestern football history to be named to the program's 10-man Leadership Council four times, a group of players elected by teammates to be liaisons and leaders in program development.

     

    8. To compile stats that would compare favorably to past Heisman Trophy Winners. (i.e. If the passing yards Dan Persa accumulated in 2010 -- prior to his season-ending injury -- were projected over a full season, he would have thrown for 3,355 yards. The last nine Heisman-winning quarterbacks together have averaged 3,354 yards.)

     

    9. To stand on the brink of college football immortality as a preseason favorite to win college football's most prestigious individual award.

     

    But there's more to the definition than what might be tangibly found in a dictionary; more than the Big Ten record-breaking 73.5 percent completion rate and the fact that he's has already been declared a candidate for this year's Walter Camp Award, Manning Award, Davey O'Brien Award and Capital One Academic All-America honors.

     

    It's the willpower I see in Dan Persa's eyes during rehab as he works diligently to complete exercises, carrying the weight of a team that depends on him.

     

    It's the resolve I notice in his stature from my place in right field bleachers at Wrigley Field, as he watches our team battle Illinois in the chilling temperatures of November -- braving the cold on the sidelines -- not even a week out of surgery.

     

    It's the elation that comes when he evades would-be sackers and glides into the end zone; the excitement that follows as he marches the team down the field with passes that fly straight into the hands of Jeremy Ebert and Demetrius Fields.

     

    It's Ryan Field busting at the seams, packed in like sardines, simply because no one wants to miss the magic he has for us next.

     

    Dan Persa has the talent and opportunity to send shockwaves throughout college football this year reminiscent of those felt after the '95 season following Northwestern's storybook run to the Rose Bowl. There has been a lot of speculation, a lot of questions and concern about his health, but Persa has created his own brand of strength that is rooted in the intangibles described above; determination, willpower, resolve.

     

    When asked about the greatest lesson he's learned, Persa had just two words, "Never quit." In regards to the 2011 season, I have five...

     

    Let the Heisman campaign begin.