June 21, 2013
V. Mark -- Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year Nomination
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern junior running back Venric Mark was introduced Thursday evening as NU's nominee for the 2013 Jesse Owens Big Ten Athlete of the Year Award, presented annually to the most outstanding male Big Ten athlete from across all sports. One winner from among 12 nominees will be determined by a media panel selected by the Big Ten and announced during the week of Monday, June 24.
This is the ninth time Northwestern has nominated a football student-athlete for the Big Ten's most prestigious athletic honor, with Mark joining Chris Hinton (1983), John Kidd (1984), Pat Fitzgerald (1996, 1997), Brian Musso (1998), Zak Kustok (2002), Jason Wright (2004) and Mike Kafka (2010) in that fraternity.
Mark was Northwestern's choice as its top male athlete during the 2012-13 academic year after one of the most prolific seasons by a running back and return specialist in NU football history. He compiled 1,366 rushing yards -- the sixth-best single-season total in NU's all-time ledger -- with 12 touchdowns and eight 100-yard rushing performances, including a career-best 182 in a road win at Minnesota. Mark was one of 10 national semifinalists for the prestigious Doak Walker Award given to the nation's top running back and earned Offensive MVP honors for a Wildcats team that finished 10-3 and claimed a TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl championship.
An explosive return man, Mark averaged 18.7 yards per punt return with two runbacks for touchdowns en route to earning first-team All-American honors as a punt returner by the Football Writers Association of America. He finished just 29 yards shy of the Northwestern school record for all-purpose yards in a single season (2,166), ranking No. 1 in the Big Ten with 166.6 yards per game.
Mark is looking to become the third Wildcat ever to win the Big Ten's top athletic honor, following in the footsteps of NU greats Luke Donald (men's golf, 1999) and Jake Herbert (wrestling, 2009). The Big Ten Conference has recognized a Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year since 1982 when Indiana track athlete Jim Spivey earned the inaugural award.
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