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Kain Was Always Able for Northwestern Football

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Kain Colter's career at Northwestern was one to remember. Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images.
Kain Colter's career at Northwestern was one to remember. Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images.

Kain Colter came to Northwestern from the state of Colorado. He was originally going to go to Stanford, but the Cardinal stopped showing any interest after he suffered a torn labrum and biceps. The injury turned out to be a blessing for Northwestern as Colter switched gears and committed to the Wildcats. He will go down as the most versatile athlete in Northwestern history.

His first season was a strange one. Originally, it looked like he was going to redshirt in 2010. But star quarterback Dan Persa’s season ended against Iowa with Northwestern sporting a 7-3 record. So Kain Colter made his collegiate debut at, of all places, Wrigley Field, against the Fighting Illini. ESPN College GameDay was there. Unfortunately for NU, so was Mikel Leshoure. The Illini running back cut through NU’s Swiss cheese defense. Meanwhile, Evan Watkins, who would later switch to Super Back, got the start for the Wildcats at QB. It didn’t go well and Colter only ran the ball three times for 10 yards without completing a pass. He wouldn’t complete a pass the next week either, playing sparingly at Wisconsin.

But Colter emerged in the TicketCity Bowl against Texas Tech. We didn’t really know what Northwestern had until that game. Obviously, anyone who plays as a true freshman in Pat Fitzgerald’s system is considered a special talent. But Colter finally showed what he could do that New Year’s Day in Dallas. He rushed for 105 yards and also caught a pass for 32 yards. That was a sign of things to come.

2011 was one of the most well-rounded seasons I have ever seen from a collegiate athlete. He threw for 673 yards, ran for 654 yards and tallied 466 receiving yards. Colter won his first collegiate start, against Boston College, when Persa could not start due to injury. He played the first three games of the season as the QB with Persa still out, posting a 2-1 record along the way.

Northwestern struggled that season even after Persa came back due to a defense that couldn't stop anyone. The Colter moment that really stands out to me came in the Nebraska contest. Against the No. 9 team in the country, Colter ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, a strike to Jeremy Ebert for 81 yards. Kain also contributed 57 receiving yards, because that’s just what he did. He was Mr. Versatility his whole career.

Still, 2011 was a mediocre one overall for the ‘Cats as they finished 6-7, including their fourth bowl loss in as many years.

2012 is the season where Colter firmly established that he will not be forgotten by Northwestern fans. Teaming with fellow QB Trevor Siemian, Colter helped lead Northwestern to its first bowl win since 1949. Colter never had the strongest arm, but he was always accurate. His completion percentage increased every season as he completed just more than 67 percent of his passes in 2012.

The star of the 2012 season was Venric Mark, whose electric performances somewhat overshadowed Colter’s considerable production. Watching Colter and Mark run the read-option was a thing of beauty. I never had more pure enjoyment from watching an NU offense than in 2012. That truly was a team that could beat anyone. They were three come-from-ahead, fourth-quarter losses away from an undefeated season. Everyone always talks about SEC speed. Well, Colter and Mark had SEC speed for days.

Perhaps the most satisfying win from the 2012 season, besides the Gator Bowl against Mississippi State, was when the Wildcats obliterated Illinois by a score of 50-14. This was the first time Colter’s class had experienced a win over the hated Illini, and it wasn’t even close.

2013 is obviously a bizarre, sour footnote. Mark took a medical hardship after gamely trying to play against Cal, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Colter was hurt most of the season as well. When you take as many hits for as many years as the dual-threat Colter did, they add up. A lot of close, heart-breaking losses have made this season one to forget, especially considering the expectations entering the campaign. As I write this article, I am watching Northwestern play Illinois, and they keep showing Colter on the sideline, unable to play. It’s tough to watch.

Colter probably does not have a future in the NFL, although he’s a really good receiver. But the way he always put his body on the line for the Wildcats for four years is something I won’t forget. Pat Fitzgerald talks about having the “heart of a Wildcat.” Colter had that in spades. Despite never being THE guy at the quarterback position, Colter put together quite the career. What no one noticed in 2013 is that he actually completed 78.7 percent of his passes, an extremely impressive number. The TD catch against Ohio State is a moment I won’t forget either.

His final tallies: 2,180 career rushing yards, 2,160 career passing yards and 683 career receiving yards.

Forget dual-threat. Colter was a triple threat. He also was a star in the classroom. So perhaps you could call him a quadruple threat.

Either way, Northwestern fans should salute Kain Colter on his career. He embodies the Wildcat Way.