Behind Enemy Lines: Northwestern QB Kain Colter

Erin Kirkland/Daily
Junior quarterback Kain Colter has passed, rushed and caught rather well for Northwestern this fall. Buy this photo

By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 8, 2012

After splitting snaps with sophomore quarterback Trevor Sieman early in the season, Northwestern junior Kain Colter has moved into a hybrid role for the Wildcats, spending almost equal time passing, rushing and receiving.

Under center, Colter is 62-of-89 passing for 517 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions this fall. He has rushed 114 times for 622 yards and 11 touchdowns, and caught 16 passes for 169 yards.

That’s a busy stat line.

At Big Ten Media Days in July, the Daily sat down with Colter to discuss his jack-of-all-trades role in the offense, following in the steps of Dan Persa and his upcoming matchup with the Michigan football team.

The Michigan Daily: You’re the returning leading rusher, receiver and passer. Is quarterback truly your preferred position?

Kain Colter: Definitely. You’re the leader out there on the field, everyone’s looking for you to have an answer to any problems on the field. I like being that guy. The other positions you don’t get to have too much control, and I like having control. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t like going out there and running a route or maybe playing some running back, it’s all fun, but playing quarterback is the best.

TMD: What does having that leadership role mean to you?

KC: It means a lot. Look at the guy we had last year — Dan Persa, first team All-Big Ten quarterback — I’ve got some big shoes to fill. The biggest thing is just trying to bring the young guys along, giving them an example of how we do things and make sure they’re able to play at a high level once they get in.

TMD: Having to take over for Persa, pretty daunting task, isn’t it?

KC: Definitely. I learned a lot from Dan, he was a guy who led by example, the way he worked, the way he led the team. I was able to get a good picture of that before I stepped into this role, so I try to mimic him in some things I do, but at the same time I’m going to be a different player. I’m not going to try to be exactly like Dan Persa or exactly like Mike Kafka, who was before him. They’re great quarterbacks but I’m going to try to be myself. I feel like I offer the team something a little different.

TMD: What can you bring to the table that Persa and Kafka couldn’t?

KC: Just being dynamic. The defense never really knows where I can be on the play and I can make plays in a lot of different ways, I think that’s the biggest thing. At quarterback I’m trying to improve passing, be a pass-first quarterback, and the defense has a lot of things they’re going to have to defend.

TMD: The Big Ten has steadily moved toward a more spread-offense, wildcat-type scheme, adapting with the times per se to move away from its power-running roots. Is that style of play good for the conference?

KC: I think so. Dynamic quarterbacks, dual-threat quarterbacks are exciting for the game. Look at Denard Robinson, Taylor Martinez, MarQueis Gray, Braxton Miller and myself — some pretty good athletes right there who have huge play-making ability. When we’re on the field there’s going to be some highlights and it gets the fans excited.

TMD: What can you take from Denard Robinson’s game, his style of play and improvement the last few years that you can use for yourself?

KC: I was able to talk to him yesterday for the first time and the first thing you notice is that he’s a real humble man. He made a lot of plays in his career — I remember being in high school and looking up to him, wanting to do some things that he did. He does some really good things out there on the field, running the ball and throwing the ball, leading his team. I think he’s a really unselfish player, that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve taken from him. Everybody’s unique, everyone has their own skills and abilities, so I’m just going to be myself and also take some tips from guys around the league.

TMD: We saw you working in the backfield successfully with the read option against Michigan last season.

KC: The biggest thing last year was that we weren’t consistent enough. We had good quarters and some really bad quarters. So I think as we approach this year we’ve got to try to be a little more consistent. We had a really good game plan coming into the Michigan game last year, some guys executed in the first half but we had some bad plays in the second half and things didn’t go our way. We definitely had a chance to win that game.

TMD: You’ve faced Michigan in Evanston, almost looked like a split crowd but nonetheless a home game, what are you expecting for your visit to the Big House?

KC: I’m excited. One of the reasons I decided to come to Northwestern was because of all the stadiums I’d be able to play at. Michigan’s one of the best venues in the nation. Excited to play there, can’t wait, definitely a game I’m looking forward to.

TMD: It’s been well documented that Northwestern hasn’t won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose Bowl. What would it mean to your team to secure the program’s second bowl win?

KC: Everybody on the team right now wants to be able to say that we were the class, we were the team that was able to change the stigma that we’ve had about how we’ve done in bowl games. We want to be part of something special, something we’ve been working towards, and hopefully we can get that done.