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Creating the Ultimate Northwestern Quarterback

This is what Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald thinks the ultimate QB looks like.

As the 2021 Northwestern Football season creeps closer, a lot of talk has focused around the quarterbacks. On August 17th, head coach Pat Fitzgerald officially named senior Hunter Johnson as the game one starter for the 2021 season, over fellow senior Andrew Marty and sophomore Ryan Hilinski.

While hopes remain high for quarterback play in 2021, Fitzgerald did answer some questions about who the ultimate quarterback for Northwestern could be. In other words, traits and attributes that would make the perfect quarterback. 

His answer included the likes of Steve Schnur '96, Dan Persa '11, Clayton Thorson '18, Mike Kafka '09, Kain Colter '13 and Peyton Ramsey '21.

"I probably take a little bit of everybody," Fitzgerald said.  "You'd take the leadership of guys like Schnur and Persa, the arm talent of guys like Thorson and Kafka that had big arms that could make all the shots. You take the athleticism of Kain, you take the moxie and the leadership of Peyton that's a pretty good crew right there"

This list includes players that Fitzgerald has both played with and coached, and truly encompasses many different play styles of a quarterback. Let's take a look at what that mock up could look like.


Being a leader is par for the course when one ventures into the life of a quarterback, as the basic requirements for the position call for control and guidance. The quarterback handles the ball on ever play, signals when to start and must execute a handoff, pass or decide to make a run for it and the game is reliant on this decision making ability. When looking at Northwestern history, team success is not always indicative of strong leadership from a quarterback, but it's safe to say that having a quarterback who asserts himself as a leader has never hurt.

Schnur was a winner. He led the Wildcats to two Big-10 Championships and a Rose Bowl appearance in 1995, and finished his career with a 19-8 record as starting quarterback. These numbers are even more impressive considering that the Wildcats were a struggling program for much of its existence and this period set the tone for continued improvement and led to the bright future that lies ahead in Evanston. It's also notable that Fitzgerald was Schnur's teammate on those teams, which further proves his leadership ability.

Persa was a stud for the Wildcats on the field, throwing for over 5,000 yards and rushing for over 700 in his three years of seeing action, including two years as the starting quarterback.. Whats also impressive is how he was a two-year captain and also made an impact on special teams during his redshirt freshman season. Persa did everything a team could ask for. 

Ramsey came in as a graduate transfer student from Big-10 foe Indiana University, and won the job through his gritty attitude and workhorse mentality. He led the Wildcats to a Big-10 Championship appearance against Ohio State and a Citrus Bowl Victory over Auburn University. The Wildcats finished ranked 10th in the country after the season ended, and Ramsey's strong leadership ability certainly contributed to his ability to take over the offense and lead it to success.

Arm Talent

When thinking of elite quarterbacks, arm strength is a true game changer. While many signal callers are able to be successful through intelligence and strategically finding weaknesses on the defense, having the ability to gun the football all over the field is certainly a huge perk.

Thorson was a problem for Big-10 defenses in his four year career as the starting quarterback at Northwestern. He possessed a terrific quarterback build at 6'4" and 226 lbs and used this to the tune of over 10,000 career passing yards, 61 touchdowns and averaged about 200 yards per game. He also got the job done with his legs as well, with over 400 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns to his credit. 

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Kafka was the man before Persa and was also gifted with a great quarterback frame, standing at 6'3" and weighing 230 lbs. He only had one season as the starter for the Wildcats, but certainly made the most of it by tossing nearly 3,500 yards and 16 touchdowns, as well as an efficient 64.8 completion percentage. Notable, Kafka twirled 532 yards in the Outback Bowl against Auburn, showcasing his ability to use his natural talents to put the Wildcats in contention for a victory.


Having a big arm is a plus for a quarterback, but being able to run and being a versatile option is a weapon that many college coaches salivate over. Colter played significant snaps at quarterback and wide receiver during his time in Evanston and was elite at every aspect. He produced 2,160 yards and 18 touchdowns in the air and 2,180 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground as a quarterback and 683 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver. His ability to be extremely versatile was a huge weapon for the Wildcats during his career.


It's obviously difficult to create the ultimate quarterback for any team in college football, but from Fitzgerald's answer it appears that a quarterback with good size, a big arm, strong legs and a winning attitude would pass the test. This sounds a bit like Cam Newton during his time at Auburn, but who knows, maybe it is someone in the quarterback room right now!


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