Three minutes into his post-practice interview, Pat Fitzgerald dropped the bombshell.
In response to a question about Venric Mark’s potential NFL evaluations, Fitzgerald said it wasn’t the topic of conversation.
“He’s coming back next year,” he said. “And that’s what we fully anticipate happening.”
“That’s clearly my intention,” Mark added.
Mark will return to the Wildcats after playing sparingly this year. His situation appears to meet the guidelines for a medical hardship waiver — with Fitzgerald extremely confident regarding the verdict.
This provides excellent news for Northwestern football in the midst of a lost season. The Wildcats stumble into the Michigan game having dropped five consecutive games, with the Mark-less and punchless offense struggling throughout the year.
Mark spoke with Fitzgerald last week to run through his options. The senior wasn’t able to play, so they “weighed pros and cons” before arriving at the decision.
“I’m not surprised,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s got great pride in being here. His attitude has been phenomenal.”
After suffering a hamstring injury–which in retrospect preserved his redshirt-that kept him out for much of the first month, Mark only saw significant action in the GameDay loss. The ankle fracture occurred, he said, on an opening drive goal line run at Wisconsin. He initially thought it was sprained.
“When you have a serious injury,” Mark said, “your mind naturally tells you to govern that.”
Mark has the option to earn a Master’s degree or to stretch one of his classes into the fall quarter; he implied the latter was more likely. He’s preparing to move on, rekindle his NFL dream and give the ‘Cats an opportunity for redemption in the 2014 season.
He doesn’t even truly know the facts about the injury.
“Believe it or not, they asked if I wanted to see the x-rays. I said no.
“I’m not a doctor. All I know is how my body feels, and right now, I can’t play on my ankle. I’m really disappointed but I’m going to keep a positive attitude.”
And so are fans. The All-American is coming back.
Tuesday practice notes to come.