In the event that you forgot just how good Venric Mark was in 2012 before he missed almost all of 2013 with injuries, Pat Fitzgerald would like to remind you:
"He's explosive. He's a young man that, two years ago, every time he touched the ball, something was gonna happen... He was as dynamic as there was in the country. His name is on the stadium because of that."
So would superback Dan Vitale:
"Fantastic. You know, he's always good."
And wide receiver Christian Jones:
As for Mark, himself, he took a handoff from Trevor Siemian, bounced to the outside, made some cuts and burst through the defense toward the end of Northwestern's first fall practice Monday. That's how he wanted to remind everyone just how good he was and still is.
"All the talking is the talking," Mark said. "I'm gonna let people talk and I'm gonna do my job which is to play the game to the best of my ability and that's going to be to an elite level."
Mark has always had a quiet confidence about him and it emanated before last season. Named to almost every major positional and offensive preseason award watch list last July, Mark was left off of those same ones this summer.
The 5-foot-8, 175 pound back has spent his entire life proving critics wrong. And coming into last season, it seemed as if he had. Yet, after missing the year due to injuries, Mark's back where he has been before: standing at the start of a journey with a chip on his shoulder.
"I definitely use it as motivation," Mark said about last season's disappointments. "It was not in my plans, but as we all know, our plans don't always follow through. So I knew that I have to bounce back and I have to come back with a certain urgency and energy to help lead this team and that's what I plan on doing."
The first fall practice, Mark said, felt like "starting high school again." In high school, you have to prove yourself to your peers, let them know what you're about no matter the class, activity or sport. Mark is in the process of doing the same thing: proving to everyone that he is just as good as, if not better than, the Venric Mark of old.