New York Giant Mark Herzlich

Super Bowl champion Mark Herzlich meets all challenges

Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012

By David Block

Conestoga graduate Mark Herzlich accomplished what thousands of high school and college football players can only dream about: He played for a Super Bowl champion this past fall.

The Pioneer grad (Class of 2006) has been making a habit lately out of beating the odds.

In May 2009, while Herzlich played for Boston College, doctors diagnosed him as having Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. According CBS’s 60 minutes, Ewing’s sarcoma strikes less than 400 Americans a year, of which 30 percent do not survive.

However, when Herzlich learned that he had cancer, he did not think about whether he would live or die, he wanted to know when he could resume playing football. The doctors said never, but that answer was not part of Herzlich’s vocabulary. Playing football had been a huge part of his life, as far back as second grade, when he played for the Conestoga Generals.

“[Playing for the Generals] was a lot of fun,” Herzlich said.

As he got older, he discovered many aspects of football that he truly liked.

“I thought that football was one of the only sports that I ever played where more of the work was mental than physical,” said Herzlich. “You watch and get to know the plays and you have to practice the plays. Obviously, what you see is the tackling, the running, but what you don’t see is the illustration of getting to know the plays that go in before the game.”

Embracing that philosophy, he cracked the Conestoga varsity lineup in his sophomore year. He said that usually Pioneer juniors and seniors earned varsity spots. Herzlich was the first football player in the school’s history to win the MVP three times. He also earned the Associated Press Class AAAA All State first-team honors and was a three-time All-Chester County, All-Suburban and All-Main Line selection.

At Boston College, he started some games in his freshman year. In his junior year, and selected him as First Team All-American, and he made AP Third Team All-American and honorable mention by Pro Football Weekly and Herzlich was unstoppable until 2009.

In January 2009, Herzlich’s left leg hurt when he ran. Then it hurt when he would do simple things such as hanging out with friends. Continued…

  • “The pain would go away for a while, and then come back more aggressively,” said Herzlich.

But when he felt his leg swell, he knew that something was wrong. In May 2009, his MRI showed that he had the rare bone cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma.

“I did not suspect it was cancer,” said Herzlich.

The doctors removed the cancerous tumor in his left leg and he eased back into his training routine. He skipped playing football for Boston College in 2009, yet returned to their lineup in his senior year in 2010.

“Once I was able to play again, everything went back to normal,” said Herzlich. “I never thought about the cancer returning.”

That year, he won the Rudy Award and the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award.

In July 2011, Herzlich signed with the New York Giants. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens were also interested in him, yet he believed that the Giant team was the best fit. His first NFL regular season game was Sept. 11, when the Giants lost to the Washington Redskins, 28-14.

Wearing a New York Giants’ jersey – No. 58 – and playing his first regular season game was exciting.

“I was also nervous,” said Herzlich.

He also liked that it was on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

“People were celebrating how far the country had come [since Sept. 11, 2001],” said Herzlich.

Herzlich played throughout the NFL season, and the first game he started was against the Philadelphia Eagles Nov. 20. The Eagles edged the Giants, 17-10. Herzlich started in place of Michael Boley, who was battling a hamstring injury.

“I was an Eagles fan growing up,” said Herzlich. “It was thrilling to now play against them. I knew that people back home were watching that game, whether or not they knew I was playing in that game or not.”

While the Giants lost to the New Orleans Saints, 49-24, on Nov. 28, Herzlich fractured his right ankle in that game and was sidelined for the season. He and his other injured teammates got to go to the Super Bowl, but they were on the inactive list.

“We (he and his injured teammates) knew we contributed to the team getting there,” said Herzlich. “Once you get to the Super Bowl, you want to win no matter what. Whether we played in that game or not, winning it meant as much to us as it did to the players on the field. I would have rather played, but there was nothing I could do about that.”

Herzlich and his injured teammates and the entire New York Giants’ roster celebrated the Giants’ 21-17 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots.

Herzlich described Giant quarterback Eli Manning as a great guy: “I remember hanging out with him at the lunch table. He was always happy, having fun, cracking jokes. He’s famous to the public, but he’s our teammate. We don’t see him as famous.”

Herzlich plans to visit Conestoga soon.

“I’m friends with {Conestoga football head coach] John Vogan and [assistant coach] Dante Coles,” said Herzlich. “I’m looking forward to visiting. I’m godfather to Dante’s daughter.”

He is also looking forward to playing for Super Bowl champion New York Giants this coming fall.

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