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.'
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.