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Northwestern RB Venric Mark will seek medical redshirt

Updated: November 12, 2013 10:36PM

Northwestern senior running back Venric Mark will put his NFL aspirations on hold for one more season.

Mark, who suffered a fractured left ankle Oct. 12 at Wisconsin, said he intends to return to the Wildcats for a fifth season and will apply for a medical hardship waiver.

Mark and NU coach Pat Fitzgerald were careful to express respect for the application process and wouldn’t speak as though they were certain Mark would be granted a fifth season of eligibility. The Big Ten makes all decisions on hardship waivers, but Mark meets the standards for being granted a medical redshirt.

NCAA bylaws state a medical hardship waiver is granted ‘‘when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in his or her sport.’’

Mark played sparingly in the Wildcats’ season opener Aug. 31 at Cal, then sat out the rest of their nonconference schedule. He played all of NU’s Big Ten opener Oct. 5 against Ohio State before injuring his ankle the next week. He hasn’t played since.

Mark has been vocal about his intention to pursue an NFL career, which sparked speculation he would try to return this season.

‘‘[The NFL is] a dream of mine,’’ Mark said. ‘‘I’m not going to downplay that. That’s what I’ve been dreaming about since I was little. That’s what I play the game for, honestly. If it’s meant to be, I’m a firm believer that it will happen.

‘‘I talked to coach Fitz about [the injury] last week, and what people have to understand is it’s not really [the player’s] decision. I can’t perform medically. So after talking to him last week, we kind of weighed pros and cons, and we had to come up with this decision.’’

Should Mark be granted a waiver, he will have the option of taking one class in the fall quarter if it is his graduating quarter. That would allow him the opportunity to
begin training in advance of the NFL draft after the 2014 college football season ends.

Mark said he injured his ankle on a goal-line carry in the first quarter against Wisconsin. He tried to
return on the next drive, thinking he just had sprained it. But after running a route, he realized he couldn’t continue.


Twitter: @SethGruen

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