Earlier this year, the New York Giants signed free agent Mark Herzlich. The undrafted middle linebacker out of Boston College made his first pro start this past Sunday night in a bittersweet game. The Giants lost 17-10.
However while the undrafted rookie turned starter is this isn’t your average Cinderella story. Herzlich was top-tier a linebacker in college but Herzlich had to overcome another obstacle most people never encounter. In 2009, Herzlich missed the entire football season after he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
In true storybook form, Herzlich recovered in time for the 2010 season with the Eagles and recorded 65 tackles, four interceptions and started all 13 games. But there were more twists in store for Herzlich. After beating his cancer and playing again, Herzlich was one of the 25 players invited to Radio City Music Hall for April’s NFL Draft. He looked to be a shoe-in as an early round pick.
This turned out not to be the case.
Herzlich was not chosen because he had recently been stricken with cancer and had to continue his uphill battle to prove the doubters that he could play.
Once the lockout ended, the Giants came calling and signed him as a free agent. Days after, Herzlich said in a statement, “When you are told that you can’t play football, when no teams want you at the draft, you got to keep pushing,” he said. “I’ve been told that I couldn’t play football before, and I played. Again at the draft, I was told we don’t want you to play, but now I am back.”
With such confidence and perseverance, it appears neither cancer nor the biggest of offensive lines could stop him, however, Herzlich’s chance to start had to wait until week 11.
“When the national anthem was playing, and knew I was going on the field, I closed my eyes and thought, `This was happening,'” Herzlich said after the game. “So as long as I am playing football, I will give my 100 percent every game. That’s where I have to give my 100 percent, doing the right thing every play.”
Take this story as a modern day fairy tale. Not every low is followed by a high but Herzlich demonstrates that pressing through hardships will get you to where you want to be. College can be hard, but just imagine having life-threatening cancer during it. Take advantage of the time you are given, Herzlich sure did and look at him now, playing out his dreams in the National Football League.