Chris Streveler is one of the five fastest players on the Gophers roster, and sometimes, even on the sidelines, his motor speeds into overdrive.
Streveler will start dancing to the music at TCF Bank Stadium or wave a towel in the air, trying to fire up the fans. Teammates are struck by the energy he brings at quarterback every time he bounces into the huddle.
The Gophers insist Mitch Leidner will be back from his knee injury Saturday. But if he has a setback, they’re ready to give Streveler, a redshirt freshman, the task of playing on the road, against TCU’s perennially strong defense.
Streveler might not have the strongest throwing arm, but he brings several other attributes to the job. And the more people doubt him, it seems, the better he does.
“He is a kid that has just made himself better through sheer will,” said Streveler’s mother, Christine. “The people who grew up with him, none of them are surprised because they remember when he used to walk around the neighborhood, holding a football.”
Streveler hails from Crystal Lake, Ill., a town of 40,000 people that sits 45 miles northwest of Chicago. At nearby Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Streveler fell into a lineage of eventual Division I quarterbacks. First there was Jon Budmayr (Wisconsin), then Ben Krol (Eastern Illinois), then Streveler, and current senior Billy Bahl has committed to Miami (Ohio).
Streveler faced doubts when he took over for Krol as a junior. Marian Central fell behind Oswego in the season opener, but Streveler rallied the Hurricanes to victory with 29 unanswered points.
“He pretty much was a force when we got him,” Marian Central coach Ed Brucker said. “He was really good at reading the defense. As far as I’m concerned, his leadership was as big as anything.”
As a senior, Streveler rushed for 22 touchdowns while completing 68.8 percent of his passes, finishing with 26 touchdown passes and four interceptions. But Streveler received only one other Division I scholarship offer besides Minnesota’s — from South Dakota State.
“That really motivates me,” Streveler said. “I didn’t have a lot of offers, but at the same time, I landed here. I absolutely love it here. I couldn’t have landed in a better spot.”
Since arriving on campus in January 2013, Streveler has added 30 pounds of muscle and now stands 6-2, 220 pounds. The Gophers have always said if quarterback doesn’t work out, he could probably move to another position, such as wide receiver.
He faced that possibility last fall when he tore a tendon in his right thumb. But he made a full recovery, and continued honing a quick-release throwing motion that Kill compares to a dart thrower.
“When I first got here, I struggled with kind of short-arming the ball,” Streveler said. “I worked in the offseason to get longer with it, but it’s still shorter and quicker.”
In this year’s spring game, Streveler completing four of five passes for 44 yards. But he struggled Aug. 9 in the team’s final public scrimmage, completing five of 18 passes for 40 yards.
Quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski said Streveler “sometimes plays better when he’s ticked.” The coach recalled one day when he ripped Streveler, “and he just went crazy, [completing] throw after throw. He wants the ball on the next play.”
Streveler made his college debut two weeks ago against Eastern Illinois and rushed five times for 21 yards and completed his only pass — a 12-yard strike to tight end Brandon Lingen. Streveler played the final two series against Middle Tennessee State after Leidner sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
“I’m pretty confident he’s going to be playing [at TCU],” Streveler said. “He’s been doing well in practice, but you never know. So I’m going to be ready to go no matter what happens.”