Commentary: Appreciating Mark Weisman


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The former fullback with a bruising running style and military mindset will not win the Heisman Trophy, despite the catchy campaign slogan that involves his name. He will not contend for the Doak Walker Award, an honor reserved for the nation’s top running back. We all know this to be true.

Hell, he might not even be remembered as anything more than a local hero, a guy who stepped up and changed positions when the Iowa football team needed a tailback, the most successful of the hundreds of “next-man-in” stories.

And that’s OK. Mark Weisman doesn’t need the glitz and glamor of national attention or big, fancy trophies for us to appreciate his Hawkeye career in a sincere, honest way.

Weisman ran for 89 yards on 25 carries and scored twice in Iowa’s 45-29 victory over Indiana on Oct. 11. Both of his touchdowns were 1-yard jumps into the end zone. He now has 24 rushing touchdowns for his career, more than any player who has played under Kirk Ferentz.

Two weeks ago, in the midst of Iowa’s 24-10 win over Purdue, Weisman became just the seventh player in school history to surpass 2,000 career rushing yards, and did so at a faster clip than any other Iowa running back ever.

Originally a walk-on transfer from the Air Force Academy, Weisman has run his way into the Iowa record books. He has earned a spot in the Karro Athletics Hall of Fame, and he continues to build a case as arguably one of the best running backs in program history.

And he does not need to be an All-Big Ten selection, or win any other award, to validate any of that.

Weisman has been indispensable since he first strapped on the Black and Gold uniform. He has seven career multi-touchdown games. Iowa is 6-1 in those games, the lone loss coming against Central Michigan in 2012.

It’s almost a guarantee that when Weisman touches the ball, something good will happen — especially in short-yardage situations. He’s converted six-of-six fourth-down attempts on which his number was called this year. Of his 24 rushing touchdowns, 18 have spanned five yards or fewer.

“That’s something he’s really good at,” Ferentz says.

Weisman isn’t like the other Big Ten running backs. He’s not quick and shifty like Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. He can’t single-handedly change a game like Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. He can’t burst through the hole and glide downfield with a gazelle-like stride like Indiana’s Tevin Coleman.

That’s another part of what makes Weisman’s career so great. His running style is purely his. He’s not afraid to take a hit, often delivering a bigger blow than most linebackers ever could. He’ll run through you, not around you. It’s hard for opponents to get lower than him majority of the time.
But perhaps the greatest part of his story is that Weisman always deflects the attention. Always.

When he talks to the media, his words are often generic and stale, but you get the sense that he doesn’t care for the limelight at all. He praises Iowa’s offensive line after every game. Those 24 touchdowns are theirs, not his.

“I feel like it’s all on the offensive line, tight ends, fullbacks,” Weisman says. “It’s their touchdowns. They’re doing all the dirty work out there.”

If Weisman’s career were to ever be a movie, this season would be the climax. He’s on pace to score 16 rushing touchdowns this year, which would bring his career total to 32, just one shy of Iowa’s all-time record (Sedrick Shaw scored 33 from 1993-96).

Weisman would never say he’s chasing that record, but it’s something we should keep an eye on as the season progresses and the run game continues to improve. It would be a well-deserved icing on the proverbial cake that is his great Iowa career.

He might not be an All-American running back, but Weisman’s Iowa career is one worth remembering and appreciating. Good stories like his don’t come around often, but when they do, they’re often retold long after the final chapter has been written.

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