Former Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa is having surgery on his right Achilles tendon in August for the second time in two years, but this latest issue has nothing to do with his recent workout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“This has to do with the setbacks I had last spring and summer,” said Persa, who originally ruptured his right Achilies tendon throwing the winning touchdown pass against Iowa on Nov. 13, 2010.
“I partially tore it last summer and I thought I could rehab through it,” Persa said. “But my calf never felt right, either, so I saw [Dr. David Porter], the Indianapolis Colts doctor and he said I partially tore my Achilies.”
Persa said he had two setbacks, one in April 2011 and another in June 2011. He’s not sure which setback caused the partially torn Achilies — which is higher up on his leg than the original tear — but NU team doctors confirmed at the time that there was a tear.
“It’s just a freak accident,” Persa said. “I knew I re-tore it, but I confirmed it with the Colts doctor. I had felt off, and I had been rehabbing it so hard for so long that I thought there had to be something wrong.”
Persa said he tweaked his right ankle the first day he worked out with the Buccaneers on May 4 during a mini-camp. And that was enough to send him to Porter in Indianapolis a week later.
“I was sick of playing at half speed,” Persa said. “I can do everything and it’s not like my foot hurts, but I’m going to explore my options [away from football] and talk to my parents and figure out life in general.
“I definitely want to play again, even though its tough to come back from two Achilles surgeries.”
Persa was not drafted and had not signed as a free agent with any team. His agent, Mike McCartney, thinks Persa will be able to overcome the second surgery and has had NFL general managers tell him that Persa can even switch to special teams as a punt returner.
“I believe in Dan Persa and I don’t believe his career is over,” McCartney said. “We knew watching him during [NU’s] pro timing day [in March] that he wasn’t right. He gave up a lot and he was never at 100 percent.”
Persa ruptured the Achilles in the Wildcats’ 21-17 come-from-behind victory over Iowa when he threw the winning touchdown pass to receiver Demetrius Fields. It was a non-contact injury and he said later that his foot “went dead.”
Persa had surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital that night and started rehabilitation shortly thereafter. But Persa was not ready for the season opener at Boston College on Sept. 3, 2011, and at the end of training camp his right calf was noticeably atrophied from the left.
In fact, Persa didn’t start for the Wildcats until the Illinois game Oct. 1, a 38-35 NU loss. He spent most of the season platooning with backup quarterback Kain Colter, but ended the season at the Meineke Car Care Bowl breaking the national record for completion percentage.
It was almost a fitting end for Persa, who was at the center of a Heisman Campaign in August that saw billboards erected on the Kennedy Expressway and in Bristol, Conn. outside ESPN headquarters.
Persa was never the same as his 2010 self, when he led the Football Bowl Subdivision in completion percentage (73.5) and finished ninth nationally in passing efficiency (159.04).
“At this point, I’m relieved,” Persa said. “I was frustrated for about a year now.”