Northwestern RB Venric Mark keeps eye on Adrian Peterson

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CHICAGO -- Size does not matter. At least not to Northwestern senior running back Venric Mark when he looks for NFL players to emulate.

Mark is listed at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds -- he is built like a scat back in the mold of Darren Sproles, and is an electrifying kick returner, just like Sproles.

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Sproles was not one of the players Mark mentioned Wednesday at Big Ten media days when asked which NFL running backs he has studied, though.

It's pretty clear that Mark dreams big.

"Growing up, I really liked LaDainian Tomlinson," he said. "Right now, (it's) the MVP, which is of course Adrian Peterson, who is from my state, Texas.

"I really like to model myself after him even though I'm not his size. He likes to run people over, he likes to juke, he likes to be elusive. Those are things I'm able to start learning to do right now playing running back."

Mark is an undersized back. He is far from unnoticed, though.

He was named to the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Doak Walker and Paul Hornung Award watch lists this summer and was one of 10 semifinalists for the Walker Award -- an honor given to the nation's top running back -- last season, which was his first as a full-time running back.

If he keeps it up as a senior, attention from NFL teams should follow.

Mark told NFL Draft 365 he had a brief chat after last season with his coach, Pat Fitzgerald, about some of the potential pitfalls that are attached to being an NFL prospect.

"We had that conversation," Mark said. "It wasn't very long. Maybe 3-5 minutes. (Fitzgerald) knows I know where my focus needs to be.

"I'm really focusing on Northwestern because I think we have a chance to do something big right now, something really special. Like coach Fitz told me, if I take care of what I need to take care of on the field here, the NFL should take care of itself."

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