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Outback Bowl: Northwestern receiver says stardom is due to his faith

TAMPA — "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." — Hebrews 11:1

Asked to select his favorite biblical passage, this was Zeke Markshausen's pick.

Hebrews 11:1 can be interpreted in many ways.

Some believe it speaks to the importance of loyalty, conscientious and dedication as they relate to being faithful. Others believe the words teach us that all things of relevance need a foundation. For Markshausen, a star Northwestern receiver, Hebrews 11:1 holds the key to living.

"It is the faith given to me by Jesus Christ that has allowed me this opportunity to glorify him on the football field and in life," Markshausen said.

And glorify he has.

Markshausen, whose Northwestern (8-4) team plays Auburn (7-5) at 11 a.m. today at Raymond James Stadium in the Outback Bowl, is a bona fide star, the top pass-catcher on a pass-happy team, a scholarship player for one of the Big Ten's best teams and a master's student in engineering at an elite institution.

None of this would be possible without his faith, Markshausen says.

"I owe everything to that," the senior from Capron, Ill., said.

Life might be sweet today, but that wasn't always so.

When he began college in 2005 as a walk-on at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville, Markshausen's personal relationships went nowhere fast, he wasn't maximizing his potential on the football field and he admittedly was lost in life.

"I felt incomplete," Markshausen said.

To become complete, he turned to God.

"A guy I knew that I had met came to my room one day and started answering my questions about God and Jesus," Markshausen said. "It all made sense. I eventually began to believe in Jesus and that he died for me."

According to Markshausen, that decision provided clarity and freed his mind. It also pushed him to seek the answer to another pressing question: Could he play in the Big Ten?

After a year in Wisconsin, Markshausen enrolled at Northwestern and begged coach Pat Fitzgerald for a tryout. He offered to show the coaches video clips, but instead they simply said, "Get on the field."

The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder was given one week to impress the staff, and he did so, not by outrunning anyone, but by outmaneuvering them with precise route running and reliable hands.

"It was all a little overwhelming," Markshausen said.

If this story, up to now, sounds like that from the movie Rudy, in which humble Midwesterner Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger walked on at Notre Dame, don't be fooled. Markshausen's teammates are emphatic about one thing: Zeke is no Rudy.

"Look at Rudy," Northwestern receiver Andrew Brewer said. "He was pretty undersized and unathletic. That's not the case with Zeke."

That said, Markshausen, who finally earned a scholarship in 2009, had to display a great amount of patience before his chance to shine would come. His work went unnoticed for three seasons by those unable to look beyond the statistic sheets, but all the while he was building a foundation.

Losses to graduation at receiver after the 2008 season gave the hard-working Markshausen an opening, and he took advantage of it. Before this season, he had one career reception. It covered only 6 yards.

He has 79 this season for 774 and three scores.

His reception total ranks 19th best in Division I-A.

"I don't believe the young man has had a bad practice in his entire career," Fitzgerald said. "He catches everything that's thrown to him. He calls the coach (one day) and says, 'Can I transfer, can I walk on?' And now, 80 receptions later, (he has had) one of the best years ever as a wide receiver in Northwestern football history while being an electrical engineering major. He's just the full package."

For that, Markshausen credits one thing: his faith.

"That gave me a purpose," Markshausen said.

Outback Bowl: Northwestern receiver says stardom is due to his faith 12/31/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 31, 2009 9:51pm]
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