This morning was the time for Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich to meet with the media, and while at least one NFL head coach said this week that he “has a long way to go” in showing NFL teams that he is draft-worthy as a football player, Herzlich will no doubt bowl over any team with his intangibles.
He certainly made an impression among the Combine media throng, as his press conference left the room buzzing and leading one reporter to say that Herzlich has a future as a motivational speaker when he’s done playing football.
Herzlich is cancer-free after learning he had a rare form of bone cancer in May 2009, and sat out his true senior year. He returned to the field last fall.
The Pennsylvania native was asked if what he’s overcome motivates him during games.
“It's not a conscious motivation,” he said. “I don't sit there in the 4th quarter and think ‘I beat cancer so I can do this.’ It's just that you get trained throughout your whole life, whether you had to go through something like this or something else in your life where you just train yourself to push through tough times. Throughout the year I went through chemotherapy and radiation, those were tough times. That was as tough as it's going to get.
“So in the fourth quarter as tough as it is what are you doing? Playing football. I was doing something I love. Take every minute and don't waste it.”
While Herzlich said that he’s 100 percent and that in terms of his times speed he’s right back where he was pre-illness, he also noted that he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to get all of his strength back.
“I really have progressed. Everybody saw my progression week to week during the season but a lot of these people don’t understand – I haven’t had an offseason yet to get my strength back. To get my speed back,” Herzlich said. “My first practice (with BC last fall) was three days before the first game. The gains I’ve made have been incredible so far. I envision progressing even more, so next time I step on the field it will be like, ‘wow, he’s at his best right now.’”
Herzlich and the rest of the linebackers will be on the Lucas Oil Field turf tomorrow, and he'll get another chance to show scouts and coaches how far he's progressed then.
While it remains to be seen which team selects Herzlich and in which round, Eagles teammate Anthony Castonzo, who impressed in his drills on Saturday, is inspired. The two trained together for the Combine.
"I'm very close with him. His story is incredibly inspirational," Castonzo said. "He came back from cancer and rather than saying 'Oh, I'm back. That was an incredible feat.' He said 'I'm still going to pursue my dreams.' He didn't say 'I beat cancer and I'm done.' He's continued to pursue his dreams and wants to be the best at his position. I admire him for that."