Nov. 14, 2013
Wildcats fans who have watched their star speedster Venric Mark battle injuries this season had their first opportunity to hear from him in over a month on Tuesday, and Skip Myslenski filed this bittersweet report to recap:
It was late last week when Venric Mark and Pat Fitzgerald met and decided that the running back, who had been hoping to return from a fractured ankle, would be shut down for the season. "I can't perform medically," Mark finally admitted this week.
"He's not going to project to be able to play (again this year)," said Fitzgerald. "That's why we're not trying to force things right now."
It was also at that meeting that they decided Mark would petition for a medical redshirt so he could return and play for the 'Cats next fall. "That's clearly my intention," he said.
"He's coming back next year," said Fitzgerald. "We fully anticipate having him."
A month ago, in the 'Cats game at Wisconsin, Mark carried once on their first possession, gaining three yards. On the next play quarterback Kain Colter
was intercepted, but just two plays later linebacker Damien Proby
caused a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo
at midfield. Quickly the `Cats moved to a first-and-goal at the Badger 10 and here Mark took a handoff from Colter and carried it to the three. It was on this play that he believes his ankle was damaged. "I thought it was just a sprained ankle, so I kept trying to play through it," he would say.
"But I could only last one more play (he lost a yard on another rush) because as you know, when you have a serious injury, naturally your mind tells your body to govern that. I was trying to work through it. That's when, after that drive by the goal line, they took me out of the game and me and Kain walked back to the locker room. That's when I got all the x-rays and that's when we found out what was really wrong."
But he would, in fact, go back onto the field. At that point did he think it was serious?
"At that point, I don't know. I thought maybe it was (like) a bad sprained ankle, maybe I could get it taped up, spotted or something. We actually tried that. They spotted me. I tried to go back out there. But it just wasn't working."
On Monday, when announcing that Mark would be shut down for the season, Fitzgerald lauded his attitude. He did the same when announcing that his running back
would petition for a medical redshirt. "It's been a bad deal from the way it happened at the start of the year (when Mark went into the season opener with a nagging injury), then he comes back, he battles his way back, he's about ready to take off and he's injured again," he said here. "But his attitude's been phenomenal. I'm not surprised. There's been phenomenal growth by him from day one when he walked into our program."
"The only thing I really can control right now is my attitude and that can effect other people. So I'm just making sure I keep a positive attitude," explained Mark himself. "It hasn't been fun. Just sitting on the sideline, it's something I'm not used to. But the season goes on and I've got to make sure I keep a positive attitude, make sure I help the guys as much as I can off the field since I can't do that on the field right now."
But has he had some bad days, days when he has cursed his fate?
"The things I've been through...this is very important," he said. "But I've been through a lot worse, believe it or not. I've been through a lot of things that's a lot worse than this. So, like I say, I'm keeping a positive attitude. I understand this is part of life. Things happen. Things happen to people that are just out of your control. . .
"I hit a crack in the road. But, like I said, I've hit a lot worse, (cracks) a lot more severe than this. So I know I can get through this. Am I a little pissed off? Yeah. Actually, I'm really pissed off. But I understand how important it is, like I said earlier, how important it is to keep a positive attitude and make sure I'm there for my teammates and let everything else take care of itself. Eventually, it will."
When asked if Mark would be healthy for spring practice, Fitzgerald said, "I'm not ready to make that projection."
Mark, who has been lifting while waiting for his ankle to heal, had this to say about his condition. "All I know is how my body feels. Right now I can't play on my ankle, but the rest of my body feels great."
With both Mark and redshirt freshman Stephen Buckley now done for the season, the 'Cats are thin at running back. That explains why redshirt freshman Malin Jones, who has most recently been working with the superbacks, has been getting reps at that position, which he played in high school. "We're going to need somebody to step in there. If his number gets called, hopefully he can go out there, rise to the occasion and make some plays," said Colter.
Said Fitzgerald: "We're trying to find a way to get him on the field. Like i've said all along, everything we do is competitive. As we walked out of camp, he was in a position where we didn't project him to be on the field at running back. So we gave him a chance to get a role and he's been on the field a lot. So he's done a good job handling that. Right now, you're kind of in that position where you've got to be able to play multiple spots. We have a lot of guys who do that. He's just one of a long list of guys who do that."
AND FINALLY: Michigan visits Ryan Field on Saturday, which shook loose this little nugget. After he garnered All State honors as a senior at Grand Blanc High School outside of Flint, and after he had committed to the `Cats, wideout Tony Jones did a Q-and-A with the Detroit News. One of the questions was why not the Wolverines?
Answered Jones: "They asked me to come to camp after I had about 15 offers. They wanted to see me play a little safety. I wasn't interested."
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