MOSCOW, Idaho — Growing up on Chicagos working-class South Side, toughness was not a trait special to Jordan Lynch.
But watch how Northern Illinois senior quarterback plays the game, and that tenacity shines through. As he led the Huskies to an Orange Bowl berth last season, the 6-foot, 215-pound Lynch ran the ball 294 times and set an NCAA record by a quarterback with 1,815 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns.
Its kind of just something I grew up with, coming from a blue-collar area like the South Side, sometimes getting a little rough playing on the street, he said.
In addition to his rushing total, which was fourth best in the nation regardless of position, Lynch also completed 237-of-394 passes for 3,138 yards for 25 TDs and six interceptions. He is the only quarterback in FBS history to throw for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,500 in a season. He also had two punts for a 57.5 yard average.
Hes big, hes strong, plays with passion and emotion he reminds me of (Tim) Tebow, to be honest, Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. Hes a winner, he finds whatever way it takes to move the ball. You'll see him run people over.
Petrino noticed on film what Lynchs head coach calls one of his quarterbacks best traits.
Hes a competitor, ultra competitive his desire to win is there in everything we do, talking beforehand or playing pingpong, Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said, adding that he hasn't played Lynch, but hed probably whoop me.
All those accomplishments from last season have led to a Heisman Trophy campaign. NIU has created a site, JordanLynchFor6.com, and sent out a lunch bag to voters in August, fitting for Lynchs lunch-pail mentality.
The accolades mean a lot, because that brings attention to my school and our conference (the MAC), Lynch said. For me, it means everyone is going to bring their best shot. They probably have our game circled, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Lynch has already earned the Vandals respect.
Its obvious on film you can see what kind of a leader he is, the way he commands the offense, Idaho linebacker Marc Millan said. He doesnt avoid contact, he wont go to the refs if he takes a hit. The whole defense is looking forward to the challenge.
With new attention, new expectations and a new coach (his third in five years), one thing hasn't changed much for Lynch the offense.
Carey was the Huskies offensive line coach in 2011 and offensive coordinator in 2012, and said he is always cautious of how many hits Lynch takes, but also wants his quarterback to have the ball in his hands as much as possible. Lynch had 22 carries for 56 yards in a season-opening win at Iowa, and completed 25-of-41 passes for 275 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
There are a few small tweaks here and there, but its the same scheme. Its worked pretty well, so no need to change it too much, Lynch said.
After facing another mobile quarterback in Wyomings Brett Smith last week, Idaho draws perhaps the nations most versatile signal-caller in Lynch, who is also ready for the challenge.
I know theyll give us everything theyve got, he said.
And thats just how he likes it.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420,Twitter: @IDS_southorn