Cancer-Beating Bro Mark Herzlich Talks NFL, Perseverance, and the Perks of New Jersey
A one-time star LB at Boston College, Mark Herzlich appeared to be on a collision course with the NFL.
During the spring before his senior season, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
In a complete and ultimate display of bad-assery, Herzlich tackled his cancer within months and recorded a five-tackle performance in his first game back.
In 2011, the New York Giants signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent immediately after the lockout was lifted. Since then, he’s earned both a Super Bowl ring and a sizable new contract from the Giants.
Mark stepped away from the NFLPA meetings and his role of being the poster boy for giving cancer the middle finger to answer a few questions for Bro Bible.
Q. First thing’s first. You kicked cancer’s ass, which is impressive enough. Then you found a way to get your body back in NFL-level shape. There’s two good reasons to read your book, What It Takes, but tell me more.
It is a book that is written as a letter in response to the thousands of people who have reached out to me over the past five years. I cannot write back to everyone, but this is a way to share my story with them. My goal of the book is to have the reader put it down and feel that anything is possible. I was told that I would never be able to walk properly again. This book is a way for me to get in depth to the mindset that I had to have, the help that I received and the realizations that I made in the face of this fear. It then goes on to talk about the fight I had to not only walk again, but to play football on the biggest stage.
Q. Some players never hoist a Lombardi Trophy. You did so as a rookie. Outside of the Super Bowl, what has been your career highlight?
The highlight of my career besides the Super Bowl win was probably my first game as a Giant. It was on September 11th, 2011 which was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Giants played the Redskins in Washington and as we stood on the sidelines for the national anthem, I got shivers as the entire crowd stood united and sung together. It was a very surreal moment in which all races, all religions and all types of fans put their differences aside to honor the victims of 9/11 and stand united as a country.
Q. Balancing the professional demands of an NFL career is obviously no easy feat. Tell us something in your personal life (outside of the fiancé, that one’s obvious) that makes your downtime more fun.
Hahaha, I actually think that Champ and Scout [his dogs] make my career and life challenges easier. When I get to come home after a tough day at work and get to be greeted by two fat, cuddly daddy loving bulldogs, I can’t help but smile. As everyone who follows me on Instagram or Twitter knows, I am a dog lover and my two bulldogs are no exception.
Q. You beat cancer in arguably the most badass way possible. Does that make playing through pain easier for you than for someone else?
I talk about pain in my book and talk about how personal pain is. I think that cancer put being hurt in perspective for me. There is a difference between being hurt and being injured and, to me, I can deal with all sorts of types of pain. I can block it out and wrap up a broken hand or tape a broken foot. That is no big deal for me. But being injured is a different story. If you are going to damage yourself permanently by continuing to play, then you have to hold back.
Q. You’re a Jersey Bro now like me. Help defend our honor, what do you like about the Garden State?
I live in Nutley, NJ and I hit up the Nutley Diner all the time. I am not a big party guy, I would much rather eat at a nice restaurant than go to a club. My fiancé says sometimes that I’m LAME now, but I like to be able to actually have conversations with the people that I’m with instead of trying to scream over loud music.
Q. Lastly, you grew up an Philadelphia Eagles fan. Does it ever feel weird to be putting it on the line every week for a team you grew up “hating?”
I did grow up an Eagles fan, but when you buckle up the helmet you become a part of a team and you fight for that team till the end.
[Image via Brad Penner/USA Today Sports]