- Communication Studies
Persa earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from Northwestern in June of 2011. He has excelled academically, becoming one of just seven NU football players to be named a 2010-11 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, which recognizes student-athletes with a GPA of at least 3.7 for the previous academic year. He has earned Academic All-Big Ten honors on three occasions and is a Capital One Academic All-America candidate in 2011.
In addition to being a two-year captain for Northwestern, Persa recently became the first player to be elected (by his teammates) to NU’s 10-player Leadership Council in four straight years. He also was selected as Northwestern’s National Football Foundation William V. Campbell Trophy nominee, an award that recognizes a student-athlete’s commitment in the classroom and in the community. Persa has always been regarded by his teammates as one of the most dedicated members of the team, best exemplified by his twice winning NU’s “Top ‘Cat” award, given to the hardest-working performer in the weight room. His dedication and team-first attitude only became more apparent after tearing his Achilles tendon in the 10th game of the 2010 season—on the same play on which he threw the game-winning touchdown pass with 1:22 remaining to help NU upset Iowa. Persa worked tirelessly to rehab his foot while also taking on the responsibility of mentoring his young replacements at quarterback during NU’s bowl preparation and ensuing spring practice.
Persa has been active in community outreach in the Chicagoland area, visiting elementary schools and middle schools on numerous occasions to speak to the students about the importance of academics and a healthy lifestyle. He did so memorably on National Student-Athlete Day, informing youngsters of the perks but also the responsibilities that go along with being a Division I student-athlete. He also participated in Misericordia Candy Days, raising money for the care of individuals with disabilities. Persa’s presence has also been felt on campus, including when he was one of four NU football players who attended a Northwestern Welcome Week event to teach the general NU freshman class the proper way to sing the school fight song.
During his breakout 2010 season, Persa led the nation and broke the Northwestern and Big Ten single-season pass completion percentage record (73.5 percent) en route to being named to the All-Big Ten first team. A dual-threat quarterback, Persa threw for 2,581 yards (eighth-best single-season total at NU) and 15 touchdowns (also eighth-best) while adding 519 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns, despite playing in only 10 games because of injury. He also broke NU’s school record for pass efficiency rating at 159.0, a total that ranked ninth in the country. Persa was 7-3 as a starter in 2010. Entering 2011, Persa is a on the watch list for the Walter Camp, Manning and Davey O’Brien Awards.