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Sports Then and Now

Mark Herzlich Is What Athletics Should Be About

Posted on January 30, 2011 by Ray Thompson

Mark Herzlich at the 2011 Senior Bowl.

If you pay attention to College sports, then you would be hard pressed to remember a more turbulent year than 2010.

Cam Newton’s recruiting scandal was as big of a story in 2010 as his play on the field, in which he led the University of Auburn to the National Championship.

Ohio State’s scandal where five starters were involved in trading autographs for free tattoos resulting in a 5 game suspension that will begin with the first 5 games of the 2011 season.

Reggie Bush returned the Heisman for receiving improper benefits while he was a player at USC dominated the college sports headlines in the first half of 2010.

Meet Mark Herzlich, linebacker for Boston College, and the definition of what a College Athlete should represent.

At a time when many top tier college athletes are mired in recruiting scandals, Mark Herzlich stands out and not just for the reason you may think. Mark Herzlich is not just a top tier linebacker many experts feel will go in the early rounds of the NFL draft, but Mark is also a cancer survivor and his story has been an inspiration to many.

Mark was recruited by several top programs, including Johns Hopkins University to play Lacrosse, which Mark also excelled at while in High School. Lucky for the maroon and gold, after originally committed to play football for the University of Virginia, Mark later changed his mind and decided on Boston College.

As a freshman at Boston College, Mark made an immediate impact, starting all 13 games in 2006. In 2007, Mark finished second on the team in tackles, leading Boston College to the Champs Sports Bowl on defense. By the end of the 2008 season, Mark’s Junior year, Mark became the team leader in tackles, won the ACC defensive player of the year, was listed on many all American teams and was a finalist for the Butkus award, the award given for the nation’s top college linebacker. Mark had become one of the nation’s elite line backers, and was the top linebacker in the ACC, a BCS conference. The future was bright for Mark as he was heading into the end of his Junior year preparing for a much anticipated Senior campaign that would no doubt propel him into the first round of the NFL draft.

Herzlich is someone you can root for.

All that changed when Mark announced in late spring of 2009, that he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Patients with Ewing’s Sarcoma experience extreme pain in the bone area (s) affected. Mark was facing the potential of 6 to 12 months of chemo therapy, and the potential of 5 to 8 weeks of radiation therapy.

Now the prospect of playing football, playing his senior year, and dreams of the NFL were all secondary to his fight against this disease. As a result, Mark would miss the entire 2009 football season but would win many awards for his approach in beating this disease and the way he conducted himself throughout his battle.

Mark attacked this disease with the same passion he used for attacking opposing offenses on the field of play. Sure enough, Mark beat the odds and beat this cancer, and recovered to play for the Eagles in the 2010 campaign.

Boston College had a rough start going 2-5 out of the gate prior to going on a five game winning streak to end the season at 7-5. The Eagles received an invitation to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against Nevada which did not seem possible at the midway point in the season. This streak coincided with Mark gaining strength and regaining the quickness he had on the field prior to getting diagnosed. Mark Herzlich was one half of one of the best linebacker tandems in college football in 2010 along fellow phenom Luke Kuechly which became a top ranked defense against the run.

Mark is now starting his official audition for the NFL, something that was in doubt only a few months ago, with the Senior Bowl this weekend, and the NFL combine in February. This is a guy we should all be rooting for, because he stands for what the standard should be for college athletes. Mark is a guy who did not fold in the face of adversity, and who fought through what was no doubt one of the toughest years of his life, to not only beat cancer, but to play his final year of eligibility. Throughout this journey, Mark has shown great courage, has reached out to others with this disease, and has become a role model in the process.

In this age of athletes with tainted Heisman campaigns and recruiting scandals, Mark Herzlich stands out and is a guy we should all be rooting for.

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