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July 27, 2011

In the hardest play of his life, Mark Herzlich overcame his cancer diagnosis to become an NFL player for the NY Giants.

As a 10-year-old boy Herzlich dreamed of being an NFL player, and yesterday he chose to play for the New York Giants despite two other competing offers, reports the NY Post.

In May 2009 five months after his star junior year as linebacker for Boston College, Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma.

The doctors at University of Pennsylvania Health Systems in Philadelphia told him: "We're pretty sure we can save your leg. Your athletic days are over," reports the source.

"It was a moment of shock when you get told," Herzlich told the NY Post. "Your whole world basically is turned around. It's a terrible thing. I felt sweaty . . . I felt hot. . . . You feel your breath drip out of you. I went from being on top of the world thinking I was gonna get drafted in the first round to not playing football at all."

Besides the fear that his NFL goal might be out of reach, Herzlich also feared for his life.

"I was afraid," Herzlich said.

Mark's father, Sandy Herzlich watched his son progress as a football player every year. Now he watched his son attempt to tackle the challenge of his cancer diagnosis.

"Nightmare is a good term," Sandy Herzlich said. "You kind of feel the world's dropped out from underneath you when they first tell you that. You spend some time trying to figure out why. You come to the conclusion there is no 'why.' You come to grips with the fact that something that devastating, that random, can happen to somebody in your family."

After a few days of isolation in his bedroom, Mark Herzlich made a decision to move forward and become a survivor.

"He came downstairs," Sandy Herzlich said, "and basically said, 'They may know a lot about cancer. They don’t know a lot about me.

'Don't worry, Dad. I’m gonna beat this.' "

Although he lost his hair and a season at college, Herzlich never lost his fighting spirit or sight of his NFL dream.

"I did have a surgery (Nov. 23, 2009), but it was to put a titanium rod through my leg," Mark Herzlich said.

A year later, wearing number 94 Herzlich started the college season off strong.

"One of those messages from God," Sandy Herzlich said.

"I ran through the tunnel," Mark Herzlich said, "and all I saw was a blur of maroon and gold."

Herzlich and his team went on to win the game.

"The advice he gives other cancer patients is, 'You gotta set a tangible target,' " his father said.

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