EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern junior Venric Mark (Tomball, Texas/St. Pius X) joined an exclusive club in college football Friday, earning first-team All-America honors as a punt returner from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). Mark is the 39th player in program history to be named a first-team All-American and is the lone representative from the Big Ten Conference on the 69th FWAA All-America squad.
The team was announced on Sirius XM Radio's College Sports Nation channel earlier this morning.
Mark's 20.1 yards per punt return (14 attempts) ranked No. 1 in the nation, nearly four yards better than his closest competitor. He became the second player in Northwestern history -- and the first since 1949 -- to record two punt return touchdowns in the same season, recording an 82-yard TD in the season-opener at Syracuse and a 75-yard score at Penn State. The plays represented the fourth and ninth-longest punt returns in NU history, respectively.
Mark, who as a freshman in 2010 set the Northwestern single-game record for kickoff return yards (273 vs. Wisconsin), also established an NU standard with his 134 punt return yards against Syracuse.
The dynamic running back (1,310 yards), kick returner (355) and punt returner (282) ranked ninth in the country this season with 171.7 all-purpose yards per contest. Mark enters NU's TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl appearance needing 147 all-purpose yards to match the Northwestern single-season record (2,195) set in 2000 by Damien Anderson, who that season also earned first-team All-America distinction.
Mark's punt return TDs were two of his team-best 14 total scores on the season.