EVANSTON, Ill. – Venric Mark made it clear that he doesn’t like his new, fan-given nickname.
“I do not like the name ‘Marknado’,” Mark said. “Kain [Colter] loves it. He thinks it’s funny. [He’s] probably telling everybody in the world that [‘Marknado’] is my nickname. But we just have fun with it.”
The soft-spoken, 5-foot-8 running back likes the name “Little General” much better. He says it’s what his teammates call him. And it’s clear how befitting it is. Despite his small stature, Mark, a senior, has grown into one of the Wildcats’ leaders.
A general does whatever he can to lead his troops to victory and Mark, in a similar way, has done the same for the Northwestern football program. Throughout his career, Mark has spent time at running back, wide receiver and as a return specialist. Not to mention the time he worked on defense in a game against Michigan in 2011 where he played linebacker in order to help contain then-Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
Mark leads by example, always aware of how his actions impact the team.
“Last year was actually my first time being a starting running back,” Mark said. “People don’t really get that. Just because I played as a freshman doesn’t mean that I understand the game entirely. Being able to play as an every-down back in the Big Ten kind of showed me what I need to do [to be successful].”
Coming off of a season where he rushed for 1,366 yards and was named to the Football Writer’s Association of America, CBSSports.com and The Sporting News All-American teams as a punt returner, Mark doesn’t want to get caught up in all the individual accolades. He has stayed grounded during the offseason by continuing to add new wrinkles to his game. The already speedy tailback wants to become even shiftier and harder to take down this season.
“In practice I’ve been doing a lot of juking and cutting back and some of that fun stuff I love doing. But I really want to do it in a game. This year, I’m adding being more elusive to the arsenal of being a running back,” he said. “It will help benefit the team to help us get where we need to be.”
The 2012 Wildcats’ offensive MVP has been named to various preseason awards watch lists, most notably the Doak Walker award for the nation’s best running back and Walter Camp Award for the nation’s best player regardless of position. Along with the individual award lists, Northwestern comes into the year ranked No. 22 in the USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll.
“We haven’t really been paying attention to it,” Mark said. “It’s hype. Football is played with pads and helmets. Everyone has predictions. A prediction is a prediction. Football really matters about production. That’s how I believe football should be graded.”