It’s hard to impress people these days. When Anne Hathaway first hit it big, I used to tell people that she came from my hometown (and not New York, as she would have you believe). Some people responded as such: “What was she like?” Aside from knowing that a buddy’s older brother hit it, I knew nothing. She was a senior when I was a freshman, she barely came to school, and I still trusted my mother to buy me clothes that I wore in public. Yet people displayed at least a modicum of being impressed.
Nowadays, I don’t bring up that “story” unless a conversation happens to drift towards Ms. Hathaway on its own, a rare occurrence. Who cares? She’s a superduperstar, but that just doesn’t pass for “wow” anymore.
In 2008, Mark Herzlich was on the verge of becoming the next great NFL linebacker. As a sophomore, he recorded 6 interceptions (2 of which were brought back to the house) and 110 tackles. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best LB. And oh yeah, he looked like a monster. In 2009, the powers-that-be pegged Herzlich with a first-round grade for the upcoming NFL Draft. 2008 Mark Herzlich was like Luke Kuechly on crack.
Unfortunately, Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer; he missed the entire 2009 season. My doctor-mother informed me that the guy would likely die from this condition eventually, and my research confirms that long-term survival for metastatic diseases ranges anywhere from 10-30%.
ESPN College Gameday came to Chestnut Hill towards the tail end of the 2009 season. They of course ran a story on Herzlich’s road to recovery. After the brief piece, the Warrior himself took a seat next to Lee Corso.
Chris Fowler: So, Mark, we hear you have some news to share with us?
Herzlich: Yes. I spoke with my doctors. They have told me that I’m 99% recovered.
There have been many times when I wished to trade lives with BockerKnocker, Boston College version, but I had never wished to be on campus for any moment more than this one. The crowd. Went. Bonkers. The moment was so important that I DVR-ed it, and it wasn’t even my own home. It was so uplifting that I knew the owner would want to see it later.
Herzlich returned to the field the following season. He started every single game and totaled 4 interceptions on the year, but he posted mostly pedestrian numbers across the board. The 2011 NFL Draft came and went, leaving Boston College’s most popular player without a team. He later signed as a free agent with the New York Giants, and last night was his first NFL start at linebacker. 2 tackles, and another great quote at his post-game presser:
(What was it like to be on defense at crunch time?)
Herzlich: This is what you live for.
He likely meant the proverbial “you.” But Mark, this is what YOU have lived for. Most men would have quit, but Herzlich’s perpetual smile permeated from Keyes to Cheverus and all along Commonwealth Avenue. In a time where almost everything fails to impress us, Mark Herzlich provided a story that will live on forever. His journey reminds us of what really matters. It is the backstory, rather than the stat line, that makes us feel good inside. It makes us remember that 02467 is a community that pushes important initiatives, like this and this. Sure, he was part of the New York Giants defense that gave up an excruciating final drive to lose an important divisional game. But we’re not going to remember that for too long, because that just isn’t as impressive.