Updated: August 13, 2014 9:38PM
Northwestern lost its only All-American.
Running back Venric Mark, who earned the honor as a punt returner after the 2012 season, will transfer, the school announced Wednesday.
Mark had been suspended for the first two games of the season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He spoke to the media Tuesday, seemingly intent on returning when Northwestern hosts Western Illinois on Sept. 20. But a source said there was a new development since Mark addressed the media.
The school said Mark is leaving for personal reasons.
“Northwestern has been an indescribable experience for me,” Mark said in a statement. “It has been my home for four years and has molded me into the man I am. I’m one class shy of the Northwestern degree I’ve worked so hard for, and I will graduate. I’m devastated to leave my second home, but life is full of challenges and I’ve been presented with another one. Right now, this is what is best for me and my family.”
Northwestern might be able to handle the loss of Mark, though he was the team’s biggest threat.
Mark missed nearly all of last season with an ankle injury, which revealed the Wildcats’ depth at running back. It’s probably their deepest position.
With Mark gone, the presumptive starter is senior Treyvon Green, who figured to have a significant role before Mark’s departure. Green led the team with 736 yards rushing last season.
Stephen Buckley also figures to have a role in the backfield. His 2014 season was cut short when he dislocated his knee at Nebraska. He said Tuesday he still was rehabbing.
Wide receiver Tony Jones is the favorite to win the punt-returner job.
“Today is a difficult day for our football family and, most importantly, for Venric,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We love him, and there is no doubt that we’re going to miss him as both a person and player. But this is unquestionably what is best for Venric and those closest to him.”
Making matters worse, Northwestern also announced that wide receiver Christian Jones will miss the season after suffering a knee injury in practice.