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The Giants' Renaissance Man

(WFUV Sports: Tommy Aldrich) 

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Entering his sixth year in the NFL and just as many with the Giants, undrafted linebacker out of Boston College, Mark Herzlich, remains as one of just four players on the roster who was there when the Giants defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl 46.

With the average career in the NFL lasting just over three seasons, it is clear that this American neo-gladiator tradition we’ve invented does a good job of turning over bodies to feed a constant demand for fresh legs. How then, does a player who not only goes undrafted but has a titanium femur in his left leg, continue to thrive in such brutal league?

In May of 2009, Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma - a rare and potentially fatal form of bone cancer found in his left leg. With life and limb on the line, the NFL grew further and further away as Mark embarked on a fight harder than hitting any gap no matter how small or driving back the momentum of any running back no matter how large.

It was during that battle, perhaps, that Mark obtained the patience and willpower that it takes to perform the art of mastery. Speaking about his goals, Herzlich said “for me, it’s one day at a time and to master something every single day. I want to have a goal that day, a specific assignment that I want to get better at.”

And he’s done just that. By focusing on the little things, the “linebacker” on paper has found his niche doing a little bit of everything for the New York Football Giants - from special teams to offense. “I try to provide value everywhere I can” Herzlich said, “being as versatile as possible - from mastering things on special teams, being as productive as I can on defense to helping out the offense on goal line” (as he did a few times last season).

In a dog-eat-dog world such as the NFL, one must do anything he can to produce. Most find specific talents to which they can add value, such as placekicking, long snapping, throwing, catching, running and even holding the football. But Mark Herzlich may be on to something… as becoming a self-described “man of many talents” has helped him stick around for longer than most.