Super Bowl is a great time for Mark Herzlich to reflect and tweet his victory over cancer
|02.01.12 at 7:31 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — In the middle of his greatest challenge, Mark Herzlich never lost sight of his dream – playing in the NFL. Now that dream has taken him to the top of the football mountain as he is a part of a Super Bowl team.
The former Boston College All-American linebacker made the Giants this past summer as a back-up linebacker and contributor on special teams.
On Tuesday – on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium – Herzlich reflected on his battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that forced him to miss the 2009 season at BC.
He was so moved by the whole experience here in Indianapolis that he sent out a tweet on Monday reflecting his appreciation, something he said was completely spontaneous.
After he landed in Indianapolis on Monday, Herzlich tweeted: 2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in The #SuperBowl. #TakeThatSh*tCancer
“Yeah, it was. It was a tweet that I just thought of at the time and said, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool how far I have come.’ Then I sent it out,” Herzlich said. “It was really kind of something I just felt. I was walking off the plane and said, ‘This is awesome.’ I’ve come so far and our team has really come so far. All we thought about was getting to this. It’s a dream come true.”
Did he think the tweet would become such a big hit?
“I did not,” he said. “That’s the thing about anything you say – whether good or bad – on social media that will be around the world in a second. I was very pleased and very happy that so many people got to see it, because that is part of what my goal and mission. Obviously, this week is all about football and all about playing, but there are people out there who are going through cancer right now who see that and say, ‘Hey, if he is doing it, I can do it.’”
Still, making the Super Bowl – he said Tuesday – was not the biggest motivating factor in returning from cancer.
“Playing football again was that goal, and that really pushed me,” Herzlich said. “After six hours of chemotherapy, you’re sitting there and your body just feels drained. You don’t want to move, but I said, ‘I am going to be playing football again in eight months, so I need to go and workout. I need to go ride a bike, get some cardio in.’ That’s what I did. I made a highlight video for myself from my 2008 season. The real bad days, I would put that in in the chemo room and watch that kind of on repeat over and over again just to kind of see myself succeeding. That’s something that as you go through things, you learn that you have to see yourself succeed, whether mentally or actually in person. That can help you do it.”
While not quite back at his All-American level of 2008, Herzlich still managed to return for his senior season in 2010, showing scouts he could still play. The question was: Could he regain most of his form and stick with an NFL team?
Last summer, the Giants gave Herzlich all he ever wanted when they signed him as an undrafted free agent – a chance to make an NFL team. Now that team that gave him a chance is playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
“Yeah, it’s neat,” Herzlich said. “I remember when I was at BC, I sat in the basement of Chris Fox’s house, a (former Boston College) teammate of mine – Tim Fox was his father – and watch the Super Bowl in ’07. Everybody was rooting for the Patriots, and I played the devil’s advocate and rooted for the Giants, purely to play devil’s advocate. It was a great feeling when they won, and it’s going to be a similar feeling this weekend.”
The feeling he had for most of 2009 was one of pain, a feeling that finally began to subside in September when he was declared cancer-free.
“The physical pain was intense,” he said. “The pain that I would get in my leg and in my lower back felt like knives being stabbed into my legs. It was just completely random. It didn’t happen when I was running, necessarily. It didn’t happen when I was just sitting down, necessarily. It would be on and off. I think that was one of the hardest parts about it. The pain coming after the surgery where I had to get the scar tissue kind of kneaded out with massage and stuff, that was probably the worst pain I’ve ever been in because they had to actually tear the muscle off the bone and tear the scar tissue away. It was painful. I was screaming on the massage table.”
Did dreams of a Super Bowl motivate him?
“No. All I wanted to do was be able to get back on the field at Boston College. I was able to do that, and this is all amazing,” Herzlich said. “It’s interesting to have Boston fans rooting for any sort of Giant, but I appreciate everything. The support that I got all through school was unbelievable, even up until today. I got tweets from people saying, ‘I am a Patriots fan, and I hope you lose, but I wish you well in your life and career.’”
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