Let’s consider Mark Weisman’s career.
Did you know he’s sixth on Iowa’s career rushing list with 2,602 yards? With 33 TDs, Weisman is third in Iowa history (behind Tavian Banks and Sedrick Shaw). Weisman is fourth among Iowa running backs with 599 career carries.
Why isn’t Weisman celebrated?
He was a fullback playing running back. The production called for it. He was what Iowa needed at running back. This also was the first year for Greg Davis and his offense at Iowa. It’s fair to ask if that five years worked, but this was the first year of it and a fullback/running back who averaged more than 5 yards a carry was going to be relied on.
In 2012, you can argue Weisman was the one thing that did work for Iowa’s offense.
So, there was that. The fact Weisman was playing out of position and didn’t have the primo cutting ability you expect out of the running back at this level didn’t help him.
Iowa also wasn’t winning. Weisman’s career includes 2012 and 2014. That’s 4-8 and “That’s football.”
You obviously can’t place Weisman on numbers alone. Read the game story. They were out of running backs. Weisman raised his hand. Love him for that. As long as Iowa has these types of people around, it’s got a shot.
Quote: “Every morning, he told me, you have to make your bed in a half-inch specification of what the Air Force bed has to be. After the first two months of having his bed flipped over every morning, he thought that was enough of that.” — QB James Vandenberg on his conversations with Mark Weisman about life at the Air Force Academy.
Note: Yes, you do still see Weisman on the Iowa sidelines. He works as a strength and conditioning assistant coach (unless that’s changed in the last few months). That’s what he wanted to be all along.
Why No. 96? — I’m sorry, but Iowa won four games in 2012 and this was the third best.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2012
IOWA CITY — Mark Weisman ran off the field severely biting through his lower lip.
He’s a fullback to the bone. The fullback code, apparently, is no smiling. Not even after you replace the top two running backs, rush for 113 yards and score three touchdowns. Not even when you changed the course of a game your team desperately needed to win.
Weisman powered the Hawkeyes’ 27-16 victory over Northern Iowa with 146 total yards, helping Iowa (2-1) shake off last week’s bitter loss to Iowa State and energizing 70,585 fans Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
Yes, it was a cheer for Weisman when the student section chanted “release the beast” in the fourth quarter. No smile for Weisman, who trotted off the field after a quick TV interview, his face covered in the black rubber shards that make up the FieldTurf surface.
“That’s kind of my personality,” Weisman said. “It’s always work and work.”
That’s the fullback code.
Weisman, a sophomore transfer from the Air Force Academy, knows all about codes. He lost 25 pounds while going through boot camp at Air Force. About the 50th time he didn’t make his bed right and had it flipped on him, he decided the military life wasn’t for him.
“Every morning, he told me, you have to make your bed in a half-inch specification of what the Air Force bed has to be,” quarterback James Vandeberg said. “After the first two months of having his bed flipped over every morning, he thought that was enough of that.”
This is a fun story for now against Northern Iowa (1-2), an FCS team. The long-term viability of Weisman at running back is a bridge that may need to be crossed. Is he cut out of the mold of Stanford’s Toby Gerhart? Or is this a one-week story?
Sophomore Damon Bullock suffered a head injury in the second quarter after he went helmet-to-knee with a defensive back. He had his helmet taken away immediately, which is the international sign for possible concussion. Bullock was off to the races, too. He had 13 rushes for 77 yards. His 27-yard burst to the UNI 7-yard line set up Iowa’s first TD, a 1-yard grunt by Weisman.
Freshman Greg Garmon took over. His third carry was his last for the day. Garmon tried to catch himself before he hit the turf, but his right elbow bowed the wrong way and he went to the bench, where he sat with a ton of ice and a wrap on that area.
Freshman Michael Malloy, who Coach Kirk Ferentz said will play at some point, was out with an illness. Sophomore Jordan Canzeri practiced this week and was in uniform and on the sideline. He doesn’t look far from a return (ACL).
There were no specifics on Bullock or Garmon. However, a possible concussion and a hyperextended elbow, respectively, make them questionable against Central Michigan.
“We’ll just see where that goes,” Ferentz said. ‘That was unfortunate, obviously, and then both of them are moving around fine in the locker room, but I don’t know how far away we are there.”
Here’s the thing with Weisman, a 6-0, 235-pound walk-on from Buffalo Grove, Ill.; Iowa didn’t change anything with him at running back.
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis called inside and outside zone running plays. Iowa was aggressive in bursts and ran some play-action passes in the second half.
Weisman practiced at running back last week and much of camp. This wasn’t an emergency, so it’s hard to gauge Weisman’s long-term outlook.
”Juggernaut or the Sherman tank, he’s just got too much muscle on his body,” Vandenberg said. “Bullock and Garmon will bounce back, but Weisman is not a guy we’re afraid to have in there.”
The long-term viability of Iowa’s offense ticked upward. No one is fitting the Kinnick scoreboard for a triple digit, but the offensive line made a walk-on fullback into a potential Big Ten player of the week and Vandenberg found a comfort level with Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley, both of whom caught five passes.
“We felt good about today, but it’s our job,” Davis said. “We’re supposed to do that.”
The takeaway, obviously, was Weisman, who’ll celebrate Rosh Hashana Sunday with a nasty scrape across his left eye that included a bruised eyelid.
That’s OK, he’s a fullback.
Mark Weisman feature from 2012
Finding running back gold
IOWA CITY — Iowa had a pretty good haul going for running backs in the 2010 recruiting class. The Iowa coaches liked Mark Weisman, but not enough to offer a scholarship.
At the time, that made sense. The Hawkeyes had Marcus Coker on the way in from DeMatha Catholic, a renowned program in Maryland. Coker was rated a four-star running back by Rivals. Then from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Iowa had De’Andre Johnson, a short-but-stout running back who was coming off a torn ACL.
Weisman started as a fullback for three seasons at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill. He was a plow horse, rushing 335 times for 2,806 yards and 38 TDs his junior and senior seasons.
Then-Stevenson coach Bill Mitz, an offensive lineman at Drake when Drake was a Division I-A program, was in on the ground floor with Weisman, who reported his freshman year at Stevenson as a 145-pound running back. Weisman grew into a 230-pound fullback and three-year starter.
“When he was a senior coming out of his junior year, you know how you usually vote for captains?” Mitz said. “Mark’s work ethic and the way he approached everything, I just told the kids, there’s not going to be any voting for captain this year. Mark Weisman is our captain.”
Iowa running backs coach Lester Erb, who recruits Illinois, had a lot of talks with Mitz about Weisman. Still, Iowa was full at running back and had just switched Brad Rogers to fullback.
Walk-on was all the Hawkeyes could offer.
“I talked to Lester about him immensely when he was coming out of high school,” Mitz said. “Coming out of high school, there was a little bit of interest coming from Iowa. In my mind and in his heart, I think that’s where he always wanted to be.”
Air Force ended up being Weisman’s lone scholarship offer. He lasted a semester. There’s no animosity. It just didn’t work.
Mitz got on the phone with Erb again. Ties and trust come in handy when you’re lobbying for one of your players. It might have helped that Mitz’s daughter, Jennifer, worked four years in the Iowa football office in the early 2000s. It also might have helped that Weisman came in as a risk-free walk-on.
“No promises,” Weisman said.
The word on Weisman spread slowly.
“Nobody really knew who he was until we finally cracked him and finally got him to say something,” said junior fullback Rogers, who Weisman replaced in the starting lineup.
“He doesn’t show a lot of emotion out there, unless he busts out and gets a touchdown,” guard Matt Tobin said. “Otherwise, he’s always ready to go for the next play and that’s what we’re taught. ... Always get ready for the next play.”
When did Iowa know what it had?
”When he got here two springs ago, the kind of pad level he ran with, he raised your eyebrows,” center James Ferentz said. “The first day we had a scrimmage and went out and tackled, it took more than one guy to bring Mark down. That’s when everybody realized, hey, we might have a pretty good player on our hands.”
Erb gave Weisman running back snaps in practice before the Northern Iowa game. That worked.
In two weeks, Weisman is second in the Big Ten with six rushing TDs, has 22 fewer yards than Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (360 to 338) on nearly half the carries (93 to 53) and has played his way out of fullback.
Coach Ferentz said on his radio show Wednesday night that Weisman will receive a scholarship in January.
“He’s going to make the most of his opportunity, I can tell you that,” Mitz said. “His work ethic is second to none. I know Iowa has great players and they’ve all had that work ethic. They’ve had Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders. Kirk’s done a great job.
“Mark fits that mold of Iowa player to a T.”