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When the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos face off against the Carolina Panthers this Thursday night, there will be a new face at the quarterback position. While most teams have the face of the franchise or a high draft pick starting, Denver is starting a quarterback with once great anonymity and a lack of success that may not have landed him where he currently is.
If you know much Northwestern football, it is likely because you went there or know about its former quarterback, Kain Colter, and his attempt for Wildcat football players to unionize for extra players’ health benefits. While that issue put the school on the map more than its actual football team, head coach Pat Fitzgerald started a young man from Orlando by the name of Trevor Siemian.
As a first-time starter in 2013, he completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 2149 yards and eleven touchdowns against nine interceptions. With greater bowl game aspirations in the following season, he struggled as he completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 2214 yards and seven touchdowns versus eleven interceptions. To add more to his poor fortunes, he tore his ACL in a November 2014 game versus Purdue and was unable to participate in pre-draft workouts.
Despite having great size at 6’3” and 220 pounds and, unexpectedly, good accuracy on short throws, he was not known to be consistently athletic and at completing deep passes. He struggled in the red zone and developed a reputation of always relying on checked down passes.
Although he had just one known pre-draft visit with Denver, not even Siemian himself expected much from the NFL as he had a commercial real estate position lined up for him in Chicago. Obviously, this was not the grocer or insurance-selling job that a quarterback like Kurt Warner or 2002 Comeback Player of the Year, Tommy Maddox, had. Most notably, this was not the wood-chopping job that former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula held.
But once Denver made him its seventh-round pick (250th overall) in 2015, he made the best of his opportunity even if he was someone more irrelevant than “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Siemian was known to pick the brains of Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, head coach Gary Kubiak, and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, and took advantage of being around Hall of Fame quarterback and president of the team, John Elway.
Once his knee held upright and workouts commenced this off-season, it was his job to win as Mark Sanchez was throwing his opportunity away and rookie Paxton Lynch’s readiness was yet to commence.
Siemian completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 285 yards and one touchdown but committed two interceptions against San Francisco and Los Angeles. There may have, and still might be, belief that Lynch should have the job. Except with his two touchdowns versus one interception along with completing 59.1 percent of his passes for 214 yards versus third-stringers in the fourth preseason game, it was clear that Siemian showed greater readiness and ultimately won the job.
To avoid getting benched, Siemian needs to play within the team’s offensive system, and the Broncos have to remain winners. It might be hard to get back into the playoffs as the Oakland Raiders are improved and the Kansas City Chiefs might be the division-winner favorite. But with Kubiak’s magic with Osweiler and Matt Schaub, it would be no surprise if Siemian kept the job throughout 2016, at least.
What Siemian’s story shows is that great people can see what attractive qualities you possess when you do not expect it. If they do, you should embrace their opportunity and make the best of it. More than likely, his meeting with Denver before the draft played a big role in him getting selected. Had Denver not met him at all, the chances are that his odds of an NFL career would have been the same as him becoming a grocer, selling insurance, or chopping wood.
Even if Siemian loses his job, he should have no problem with it whatsoever. If happiness is all based on your level of expectations, just having an NFL gig should make him happy alone as his self-doubt and near goodbye from football make his expectations near to the point of extinction.