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Northwestern QB Kain Colter earns spotlight

Quarterback KaColter’s versatility was display Northwestern’s 28-25 upset Saturday Nebraska. | Dave Weaver~AP

Quarterback Kain Colter’s versatility was on display in Northwestern’s 28-25 upset Saturday of Nebraska. | Dave Weaver~AP

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Updated: December 13, 2011 8:41AM

Proving people wrong probably isn’t the first thing on Kain Colter’s mind, but there’s a part of him that has to smile at the thought and say, “I told you so.”

The Northwestern sophomore quarterback earned Big Ten offensive player of the week honors for the first time after he led the Wildcats to a 28-25 upset at No. 19 Nebraska last week. Colter, who took over for an injured Dan Persa to start the second half, led the Wildcats to three touchdown drives and had 229 yards of offense. Colter had 57 yards rushing and two touchdowns, 115 yards passing (including a TD pass) and 57 yards receiving.

“My mom sent me a text [about the honor], and I didn’t really know anything about it,” Colter said. “There’s a lot of people on this team and in the league that are deserving of the award.”

After that performance in Lincoln, Neb., on such a huge stage, the rest of the country is finally noticing what the Wildcats have seen all season — a quarterback who also can be a receiver and running back in every game.

And expect to see more of that when the Wildcats host Rice on Saturday at Ryan Field. Persa practiced Tuesday, and coach Pat Fitzgerald said he was doing better after injuring his left (non-throwing) shoulder against Nebraska.

Colter’s praises have been sung by everyone from Fitzgerald to his teammates to media and even opposing coaches. It seems like there’s nothing we don’t know about this kid and what a versatile — and crucial — athlete he is to the NU program.

“He’s been consistent from his preparation — he’s had to,” Fitzgerald said. “He started off the year as a quarterback. He had to pick up the flag and run with it, and once Danny was able to come back [at Illinois on Oct. 1], he wore multiple hats. He only gets 20 hours of work with [offensive coordinator] Mick [McCall] a week, and he has to do a lot on his own for film study and prep.”

His back story is well known. Colter accepted an offer from Stanford his junior year at Cherry Creek High School in Denver. But early in his senior season, Colter tore the labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder. Stanford curtailed its communication with Colter and eventually lost interest. So Colter, who also was being recruited by Fitzgerald, committed to NU and hasn’t looked back.

After Persa ruptured his Achilles tendon against Iowa last November, Colter watched as Evan Watkins took over. Colter got some time in the pocket but really came out of his shell at the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas on Jan. 1. There, Colter led the Wildcats in rushing with 105 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He also threw for 38 yards and caught a 32-yard pass.

Colter said he figured the Army game on Sept. 17, a 21-14 loss, would be his last start at quarterback. And he wasn’t sure if Fitzgerald and McCall would put him at receiver or running back or use him sporadically as a running QB.

But you can’t blame him if he gives just a hint of a wry smile when he says he won’t get into that I-told-you-so mentality with Stanford.

“You don’t ever want to use that as your motivation, like, ‘I want to get back at these guys,’ ” Colter said. “But I feel like it’s human nature. When people have done you wrong in the past, you might want to show them. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t feel that at all. It felt good playing well against Nebraska.”

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