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The Mark Herzlich Miracle Continues at Super Bowl XLVI

Updated on February 2, 2012
Mark Herzlich won the Disney Spirit Award in 2009
Mark Herzlich won the Disney Spirit Award in 2009

Mark Herzlich appearance with the New York Giants this coming Sunday February 5, 2012 in Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana for Super Bowl XLVI is simply the continuation of a miracle the award winning linebacker has been experiencing for the past two years. And if his track record for beating the odds is any indication, the result of Sunday’s football game is more than likely to produce a favorable outcome for the rookie Giant.

In the spring of 2009, Mark Herzlich was looking forward with great anticipation to his senior year at Boston College as the Eagles’ star linebacker. Then in May, he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. What a setback for a career! As he put it—his whole world was taken away in 20 seconds.

Since the cancer manifested itself in the form of a tumor in his left leg, he was informed that—not only was his football career over—he might never even walk again. That wasn’t an outcome Herzlich was willing to settle for. Given a couple of options for his cancer treatment, he chose the riskier option because it provided him the only possible scenario for ever playing football again.

Mark Herzlich at Boston College with his trademark eye black mask
Mark Herzlich at Boston College with his trademark eye black mask

While undergoing treatment, Herzlich continued to attend college classes and tried hard to keep up a workout schedule. He managed to graduate that year and then began working on an MBA and getting ready to rejoin his team in the fall.

He missed the entire 2009 football season in order to fight cancer. He managed to keep a very positive attitude by praying every day and compared going through the tunnel with his team onto the field with seeing the figurative “light at the end of the tunnel.” After enduring six months of chemotherapy and four weeks of radiation treatments to finally defeat cancer followed by excruciating physical therapy designed to rip muscles loose that had fused to his bones during radiation, he came back for the 2010 season.

15 months after receiving the deadly news, Herzlich was back playing ball with the Eagles at Boston College. He now had a 12-inch titanium rod inserted into the once cancer-stricken leg to provide support. He had been pronounced cancer free!

Herzlich makes an interception against the Bears in the preseason
Herzlich makes an interception against the Bears in the preseason

In his eagerness, instead of easing back into rigorous football practice regimen, he threw himself full throttle into the preseason workouts and suffered a stress fracture in his right foot causing him to miss the entire training camp in preparation for the 2010 season. This was a minor setback, though, since after overcoming cancer, it was more annoying than burdensome. In the end, he was still able to start all 13 games that season.

Before his cancer diagnosis, Herzlich had been a hot prospect for the NFL draft. He was inches from achieving his childhood dream of becoming a professional football player. At Boston College he had been named ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 after accruing 110 tackles that season. He considered forgoing his senior year at Boston in order to enter the NFL draft for which he was guaranteed to be a first round pick. He decided to complete his college senior year instead shortly before discovering the daunting cancer diagnosis.

After successfully finishing his senior 2010 football season, this go round Herzlich received no calls from the NFL, though he was invited to participate in the draft. As a result, his only hope for an NFL career was as a free agent. He made the roster for the New York Giants against all odds after impressing everyone during the training camp and several preseason games.

Sister Barbara Ann Hallman started praying and writing to Herzlich when she read about him online.
Sister Barbara Ann Hallman started praying and writing to Herzlich when she read about him online.

He started the season as a backup linebacker but was promoted mid-season to a starting middle linebacker. He got his first career start against Philadelphia on November 20 and the second one the following week which resulted in another setback—he broke his ankle when knocked to the ground by an opponent. He missed seven games and wasn’t able to return to practice until the middle of January 2012. Since then, he’s been working hard to be in shape for the Super Bowl. He had a total of 12 tackles in the regular season of his rookie year with the Giants. It will be exciting to see if Coach Coughlin gives him a chance to play on Sunday though just the chance to be there with the Giants is a tremendous triumph.

As he got off the plane in the Indianapolis airport Monday prior to the big game on Sunday, and saw the red carpet rolled out to the plane, Herzlich was overwhelmed with how far he had come in the past two years. His tweet to the world in response to the emotions that swept over him quickly went viral and is sure to be recounted over and over in the annals of NFL lore:

"2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in The #SuperBowl. #TakeThatSh*tCancer”

Herzlich has already been a source of inspiration for many people facing similar challenges. While he was still in college, a nun at Our Lady of Holy Angels Convent in Mishiwaka, Indiana named Barbara Ann Hallman who battled colon cancer herself, just happened to stumble across an article on the internet about Herzlich and immediately began to pray for him regularly and to write letters to him. Boston College provided her with a special seat at Herzlich’s first game of the season since being declared cancer free.

Recently, a 20-year-old female Darton college student named JoLynn Johnson was encouraged and inspired to keep fighting the cancerous tumor in her left leg (same as Herzlich) when she heard about Herzlich’s story. When informed about her plight, Herzlich’s called her up in the hospital to encourage her shortly before she was to go into surgery.

Herzlich has also received a blizzard of invitations for appearances at various celebrity functions. He has also lent his support to various charities to assist them in raising money such as Uplifting Athletes, which is an organization founded by college football players for the purpose of funding research for rare diseases.

See an inspiring video about Herzlich at:


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