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Big day for BC: Mark Herzlich and Ron Brace return

11.06.11 at 12:14 pm ET
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Ron Brace wore the No. 92 of Albert Haynesworth in his first two years in New England. (AP)

FOXBORO — With lots of attention this week on UMass star Victor Cruz coming back as a key receiver for the Giants, there are several products of Boston College who could be on center stage today for the Giants-Patriots battle. And a couple are making a return of sorts.

Mark Herzlich returns to New England today, after a brief cameo in the preseason finale on Sept. 1. The cancer survivor and former Boston College All-American linebacker has earned a spot on the Giants special teams unit.

“First and foremost, he’s a tough kid and really, a guy who’s a dedicated football player, loves the game, [and] loves to be around the game,” Giants coach Tom Coughllin said. “Really never misses a thing, hasn’t missed one play of practice – hasn’t missed anything; he’s completely reliable. He’s a guy who’s very smart. You tell him one time and he’s got it. He’s been a good solid citizen here and he’s working as hard as he can as a young rookie to understand the National Football League and to continue to grow and develop.”

Ron Brace has been at Patriots practice since the bye and was activated off the Patriots PUP list on Saturday. The former BC defensive tackle could join the rotation for the Patriots four-man front.

Prior to 2010, Brace was moved to defensive end, and missed most of training camp after failing his conditioning test. However, he returned and started the first three games of the regular season, including a four-tackle game in Week 2 against the Jets. Brace soon lost his starting job to rookie Brandon Deaderick, and was inactive for the team’s Week 7 win over the Chargers.

Brace was active again in Week 8, and returned to the starting lineup two weeks later against the Steelers. He was a reserve the next week against the Colts, but tied his season-high of four tackles in the game. Three weeks later, he started the Week 13 game in Chicago, but sustained a concussion that kept him out of their Week 15 game against the Packers. After playing in Week 16, Brace missed the team’s regular season finale with an elbow injury.

“If they call my name, I know it’s my job to be ready,” Brace said. “It’s good. It’s another transition I’m trying to make, missing training camp and a big chunk of the season. I’m just trying to play catch-up with these guys.”

Brace caught the eye of Bill Belichick and was drafted by the Patriots in the second round (40th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft. He signed a four-year contract with approximately $2.82 million in guaranteed money.

Brace was active for six of the first 13 games of the season, recording two tackles; meanwhile, 2009 sixth-round pick Myron Pryor was active for the Patriots during that time at the same position. Brace started his first NFL game on Dec. 20, 2009 against the Bills in place of an injured Vince Wilfork and Pryor at nose tackle. He started again in Week 16 and finished the season with eight tackles in nine games, including two starts. Brace was inactive for the Patriots’ playoff loss against the Ravens.

Brace was placed on injured reserve on Jan. 3, 2011, prior to the playoffs. He finished the regular season with 23 tackles in 13 games.

Brace was still licking his wounds from something else this week, watching his BC Eagles get their doors blown off by Florida State, 38-7, on Thursday night at Alumni Stadium.

“Your guess is about as good as mine,” Brace answered when asked what happened. “I wasn’t there. I don’t know what to say about that. It’s to see my school going down like that, especially against FSU.”

BC is 2-6 this season and 1-4 in the ACC.

Those numbers are likely painful for Giants OL Chris Snee and LB Mathias Kiwanuka and head coach Tom Coughlin, all with direct ties to the BC football program.

Read More: Boston College, Boston College footbal, New England Patriots, New York Giants
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