Each day, Dan Persa is reminded of the game-winning touchdown pass he threw to beat Iowa a year ago.
An ache here.
A pain there.
The Northwestern quarterback is back on the field, but he copes with the residuals of the ruptured Achilles tendon, which ended his 2010 season every morning.
"I'm going to feel stuff for the rest of my life," Persa said. "It's always going to be sore in the morning when I wake up. It's always going to take me a little longer to warm up. Once I get moving on it, it's fine."
Persa warmed up for this weekend's visit to Iowa's Kinnick Stadium by throwing for a career-high 331 yards on Saturday against Michigan. His 32 completions equaled his previous best set a year ago during his 318-yard passing performance against the Hawkeyes.
The start against the Wolverines was just Persa's second of the year, delayed by a preseason setback with the healing Achilles which kept the 6-foot-1 senior off the field until Northwestern opened the Big Ten season with a 38-35 loss at Illinois on Oct. 1.
He exited the Illinois game after feeling some stress on the foot that was operated on just hours after Persa hit Demetrius Fields with the game-deciding 20-yard pass with 1 minute, 22 seconds remaining in the Wildcats' 21-17 win over the Hawkeyes.
Northwestern went on to lose its final three games of the 2010 season. Watching in street clothes was not Persa's idea of a good time.
"It was tough, really hard. I caught myself wondering what could have been a number of times late last season, but you can't play that game," Persa said. "I got hurt. I didn't play. It was the test of my life."
The win over Iowa was the Wildcats' last Big Ten win. This season, Northwestern has let second-half leads of 18 and 10 points slip away in its two conference games.
"We just have to stay consistent," Persa said. "The sense of urgency has to go up. We're doing a lot of good things, but we have to do more. Obviously, what we are doing isn't good enough."
Sign up for the Hawkmania Newsletter
Get our comprehensive Hawkeyes coverage delivered to your inbox
Kain Colter, who started the first three games at quarterback, will continue to see snaps as well in Saturday's 6 p.m. game at Kinnick Stadium, and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said the Wildcats have two quarterbacks they can win with while seeking a balanced attack.
"Dan's doing great, two games back. He has given us a chance to win," Fitzgerald said. "I really like what we're trying to do and get accomplished. We've just got to execute better. It's really not a whole lot more complicated than that."
Persa believes the injury has forced his game to evolve.
"Running was always kind of my safety net, and from that perspective, maybe the injury is somewhat a blessing in disguise," he said. "My ability to run may still be there, but I don't think I'm thinking about running as much."
Instead, Persa has used the opportunity to improve his skills in the pocket.
In his first two games of the season, he has completed 42-of-58 passes for 454 yards and has thrown four touchdown passes in addition to being intercepted once. Persa has lost 8 yards on 18 carries in his first two appearances this season.
"My hope is to use the situation to take my game to the next level," Persa said. "If I can come out of this a more complete quarterback, I will have gained something from the experience."