This is the starting quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos:
The starting QB for the defending Super Bowl champions pic.twitter.com/TOwRGnWsti
— Jeffrey Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) August 29, 2016
And this play only tells a small part of Trevor Siemian's underdog story:
1. He was not the best Olympia High School grad or QB in his Northwestern recruiting class.
As a senior at Olympia High School in Orlando, Siemian was ranked the No. 26 pro-style passer by 247 Sports. But while Siemian redshirted his first year in Evanston, his high school teammate Rashad Lawrence played wide receiver as a true freshman.
On the quarterback depth chart, Siemian was behind Dan Persa (who was first team All-Big Ten in 2010), Evan Watkins and another freshman quarterback Kain Colter. Then the next season Northwestern added Zack Oliver, the No. 32 pro-style passer in the 2011 class, to also compete for the quarterback job.
In other words, there was limited hype around Siemian in his early years in Evanston. He made 26 passing attempts as a redshirt freshman behind Persa and Colter. As a sophomore and junior, Siemian served as NU's "QB 1B," which essentially meant he played more than a normal backup, but Colter still handled the majority of snaps.
2. His only season as Northwestern's starter was underwhelming
Northwestern had also planned to redshirt Colter as a freshman during the 2010 season. But when Persa ruptured his Achilles in mid-November, Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald decided to burn Colter's redshirt, a decision that ended up being a blessing for Siemian. When Colter finished his eligibility with the 2013 season, Siemian had one more year to prove himself.
Competing against Oliver and two underclassmen, Matt Alviti and Clayton Thorson, neither of whom had taken a collegiate snap at that point, Siemian won the job, but not the hearts of Northwestern fans. He threw two interceptions in an opening-week home loss to Cal, a team Northwestern had beaten on the road a year earlier. In Week 2, he lost to mid-major Northern Illinois, a geographic embarrassment for Northwestern.
Siemian got his act together, leading NU to a Week 3 win over Western Illinois and consecutive upsets of Penn State and Wisconsin. But the inconsistency bug hit Siemian hard. He lost four straight to drop Northwestern to 3-6. The fourth of those losses included the play in the .gif at the top of this article. Siemian tossed a three-yard touchdown pass with three seconds left against Michigan. Fitzgerald called for a pass on an all-or-nothing two-point conversion. Siemian slipped, and with a trip to Notre Dame coming the next week, Northwestern's bowl hopes seemed all but dead.
3. If Nov. 15, 2014, in South Bend happens every week, the Broncos will repeat as Super Bowl champs
Trevor Siemian can win ten straight Super Bowl MVPs. They can rename the Hall of Fame after him. He can take over Peyton Manning's role as Papa John's spokesman. It won't matter. Northwestern fans will always remember Siemian's performance in South Bend as his greatest moment.
Northwestern trailed 27-23 at halftime. On the first drive of the third quarter, Siemian's 5-yard run got Northwestern inside the red zone and helped set up a field goal. With 4:10 left in the fourth quarter, Siemian rushed six yards up the middle for a touchdown to cut Notre Dame's lead to 40-37. Northwestern then kicked a field goal with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter and won 43-40 in overtime.
Siemian finished 30-of-48 for 284 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 32 yards and another score to dispose of a historic program clinging to college football playoff hopes.
4. This passage from the Chicago Tribune's Northwestern beat writer Teddy Greenstein epitomized what that game meant for Siemian:
Dan Persa was intense and high-strung. Kain Colter oozed confidence and had a distaste for authority.
Trevor Siemian has brought a different personality to the Northwestern quarterback room.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald has described him as having a "Luke Bryan type of personality," referring to the country music star.
Maybe "Cool Hand Luke" is more apt.
Nothing seems to bother Siemian, whose relaxed, jocular side was on display after the Wildcats' stunning 43-40 overtime victory Saturday at Notre Dame.
When Siemian noticed a reporter shooting video of the players singing the NU fight song in a corner of the stadium, he waved his hand in front of the screen and smiled.
Later he downplayed all the attention he was receiving, saying, "I've gotten a few texts."
Asked with whom he would immediately celebrate, Siemian replied: "My parents — hopefully they're still hanging around. They're from Florida, so they're probably frozen."
An Orlando kid who thrives in the cold? What are the odds of that?
5. Siemian's senior year ended with a bad injury.
At 4-6 and games against lowly Purdue and Illinois, all of a sudden, Northwestern had realistic bowl hopes. On top of that, Siemian's name started popping up on NFL draft boards.
But then disaster struck at Purdue. With Northwestern up 21-0 in the second quarter, Siemian, hitting his collegiate peak, dropped to the ground with a knee injury. His college career ended with a torn ACL. The Wildcats held off Purdue, but without Siemian, they lost in Evanston to Illinois the following week.
By the time Siemian was cleared medically, he had less than a month to train for his pro day. But he showed enough that John Elway took him in the seventh round of the 2015 draft, held in Chicago.
Siemian has the body and arm of an NFL quarterback. He was a better decision-maker than Colter while battling for playing time at Northwestern. He never put the tools together in college for team success. But somehow, he did enough to convince Elway.
7th rd pick Trevor Siemian had a productive career as a quarterback at Northwestern. He has raw talent and we think he will develop nicely.
— John Elway (@johnelway) May 2, 2015
6. Trevor Siemian is not a good quote.
Those who have been around Northwestern know Pat Fitzgerald gives quotes like a programmed video game. The Wildcats blog Inside NU even has a bingo board for Fitzgerald's press conference quotes.
Siemian is trained in the same way. He rarely takes a risk on the podium. Every question is met with a standard, "I want to help the team"-type answer. Which is why something like this is ridiculous:
Siemian is described as outgoing All-American kid. Very bright player who can handle a large playbook. Avg arm but great decision-maker
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) August 29, 2016
Somewhere in translation, someone got their signals crossed. Siemian is not outgoing. Northwestern offensive coordinator Mick McCall gives a more accurate description of Siemian:
"I can't tell you how many times he just kept coming and coming and all the sudden you're winning. It's what he does," McCall told The Gazette in Colorado Springs earlier this August. "Something goes wrong, he shakes it off and comes at you. It's his demeanor. You don't expect it. He's so laid back, but yet he's a harsh competitor."
Siemian relies on his game to lead. Don't expect Peyton Manning-type marketability.
7. Trevor Siemian is a product of right place, right time.
Similar to how Persa's injury led to Siemian having another season after Colter was done, the Broncos' quarterback situation unfolded favorably for him.
Elway was looking for a pro-style quarterback he could steal late in the draft, and Siemian was still on the board in the seventh round. Then after a rookie season in which Siemian's only regular-season snap was to take a knee, Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler left as a free agent.
Denver signed Mark Sanchez and drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round, but when Sept. 8 rolls around, the Broncos will raise their Super Bowl banner, and Trevor Siemian, who took five years to start in college, will be their starting quarterback.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.