Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich made one of the most miraculous comebacks in college football this year when he first set foot on the field again after first defeating Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer. As Herzlich’s career at BC comes to a close, he shared some reflections on where he’s been and where he’s headed. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
You probably have a different perspective on what it means to be successful at this point. While you probably would’ve liked to be playing for an ACC championship, you’re also probably grateful just to be back on the field again. What’s your perspective on this season, the good and the bad of it?
Mark Herzlich: Well, obviously my first game back was something huge for me. There was a lot of fanfare for that game and everything. Just being able to play again was for me, a huge success. We had a five-game losing streak, which obviously was terrible. The morale around the team dropped a little bit. We needed to get a win. Leaders stepped up. We started making plays and four games later we’re on a winning streak. That’s definitely part of the good. It goes to show how the team stuck together. After we lost five straight games we figured, ‘OK, we’ve got to stop worrying about bowl games, we’ve got to stop worrying about the ACC championship game. We’ve just got to get a win.’ That’s where our minds were at, and that’s where it’s at every game. I’m very pleased with the way we turned it around. That’s been a huge success this season.
How have you felt this season?
MH: I’ve felt pretty good. It’s been a gradual process. In the beginning I didn’t feel as fast as I had before. I wasn’t making the plays I had before, but as the season progressed, every game I got a little better. Last game I felt pretty good and I thought there was finally a time I had a solid game.
How difficult was it for you this season to not come back immediately like you looked in 2008, or for it to be that gradual process?
MH: It’s frustrating. You want to just strap it on and get right back to where you were, but as frustrating as it is, it’s really rewarding to see strides you’re making on film and in the games. That’s a good way to look at it.
Can you believe your career is coming to a close?
MH: No, it’s pretty crazy. I feel like I’ve been at Boston College forever.
I’m sure your opponents do, too.
MH: [Laughs.]) I remember back when … [Herzlich stopped on campus to oblige a passerby who wanted to take a picture with him. ‘There you go, buddy. Take care …’]. It’s been a great run. It’s time for some young guys to step up and let me go on my way.
What are you most proud of this year?
MH: I’m most proud of the way our team never gave up. I think that we’ve all made personal gains and personal strides, but the way the team bounced back from a five-game losing streak, that’s what I’m most proud of.
Have you been seeing any doctors this whole season?
MH: Yep. I actually had a checkup on Monday. The MRI and CT-scan came out clear. It’s been a year and a half since my diagnosis, and everything is clear now, so that’s still good.
How often do you have those checkups?
MH: Once every four months.
Do you have to go back to Philly?
MH: Yeah, I go back to Philly for them.
And do you hold your breath every time you go?
MH: Kind of. My mom does. I take it in stride. I’m usually pretty confident nothing is wrong, but it’s always nice to get the reassurance.
Were you ever afraid of playing this year?
MH: No, not really. I had made a decision a long time ago that I wanted to play again. Once I made that decision I wasn’t scared about hurting myself or anything like that -- just come back and play.
Have you heard anything about a potential NFL career, any feedback? What’s next?
MH: Yeah, I’ll be doing the agent interview process over the next few weeks. I’ll narrow that down, I’m going to the Senior Bowl late in January, and down the line, who knows. But I know that people have seen progression and will look to see how I play at Syracuse, in the bowl game and the Senior Bowl and then it will be off to the combine.
What are your hopes for what happens? What’s your dream scenario? What’s realistic?
MH: Yeah, dream scenario is 30 tackles in the next two games and I go first round. A realistic goal for me is I want to get a shot. I understand that my stock has dropped, obviously, since 2008, and I’m hoping to perform well at the Senior Bowl and the combine, and try to build it back up a little bit, but either way, I just want to get a shot at a team. I know if I get there I’ll make a difference, make an impact. That’s the biggest thing -- get drafted. It doesn’t matter when, really, just try and get on a squad.