Although he was granted another year of eligibility, Venric Mark‘s career as a Northwestern Wildcat has officially, unceremoniously concluded. The star kick returner and running back decided to transfer closer to his home in Texas for “personal reasons,” the school announced on Wednesday.
After an injury-riddled 2013 season, Mark was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the Big 10 for his medical hardship, giving hope to the Wildcats program in the newly-formed West division. The unexpected transfer is an even bigger blow to Northwestern following receiver Christian Jones‘ (668 receiving yards, four touchdowns in 2013) season-ending knee injury sustained in practice Wednesday.
Although Mark was suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season for a violation of an unspecified team policy, he was expected to be a major cog in Northwestern’s offensive attack and was even pegged as a potential dark horse for the Maxwell Award. When healthy, Mark has been an absolute blur on the gridiron thanks to game-changing speed. In 2012, he earned All-American honors as a punt returner with two punt return touchdowns and second-team All-Big 10 honors after rushing for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns. Although the Wildcats have solid depth at running back with Treyvon Green (736 rushing yards, eight touchdowns), Stephen Buckley (265 rushing yards) and Warren Long, along with several incoming freshmen, none are quite like Mark.
Mark’s decision was unexpected, as the back did not seem to be leaning towards leaving when asked about his suspension at practice Tuesday.
“Does it hurt? Yeah, it hurts really bad,” Mark said. “But there’s no point in pouting. I’m going to embrace it.”
Mark has one year of eligibility left in his collegiate career, so it will be interesting to see whether he will transfer to an FCS school or attempt to play immediately for another FBS school in Texas.