On paper, Chris Streveler’s freshman season at Minnesota never really occurred. After tearing a tendon in his right thumb, he was redshirted and never saw the field.
But now, as Streveler again finds himself battling for playing time at quarterback for the Golden Gophers, he cites last season as one of the biggest reasons why – in his eyes – he’s a much better player than the freshman who strolled into Minneapolis one year ago.
"Spring ball last year was a struggle," Streveler said. "It's always tough to go from high school to college ball. I don't even think I'm the same player that I was."
Coming into college, Streveler certainly had the accolades and accomplishments to validate his spot on Minnesota's roster. As a senior at Marian Central, Streveler was named Northwest Herald Player of the Year, first-team all-state and team MVP. He was a dual-threat quarterback who threw for 2,662 yards and 26 touchdowns, and added 1,276 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground during his senior campaign.
But entering Week 6 of his freshman season with Minnesota, Streveler's thumb injury meant that the Crystal Lake native would have to sit and watch the remainder of the Gophers' season. It would be about three to four months until he would throw comfortably again.
"I was getting excited. I was second string there for a couple of weeks, and then you end up getting injured," Streveler said. "It's always unfortunate when you end up getting injured."
If there's one clear quality in Streveler, it's his positive nature. Which would explain why, when faced with the injury, he decided to find the good in it.
Streveler spent his season off learning the playbook, getting comfortable in a new environment and play-style, and gaining an extra year to expand his academic opportunities.
"I think it has helped me," Streveler said of the injury. "At the time it was tough, but looking back on it, there could be much worse things that could've happened."
Although Streveler believes he's better than he was one year ago, he still finds himself battling for playing time. The Golden Gophers retain sophomore Mitch Leidner as a quarterback option. Leidner played in 10 games last season, starting four.
"I just try to work as hard as I can. Whatever happens, happens," Streveler said. "We're all working for one goal, just trying to help the team. I don't really pay attention to that stuff really."
Minnesota kicks off its season Aug. 28 against Eastern Illinois. Hopes are high for the Golden Gophers, who return 15 starters from a team that finished last season 8-5. Along with the opportunity to bring home some hardware in Minnesota’s trophy games against Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, Streveler is most excited to help the team win any way he can.
And like most fans, Streveler is optimistic about his team, as well.
"I feel great. We're really getting after it, there's just a good feel to the team. We have a real good vibe," he said. "I think we have a chance to do some special things this year."