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"He had a monster junior year before he got sick and we just thought he was worth a shot," Mara said. "Anyone who has the strength and mental toughness to overcome what he has is worth taking a chance on."
The 23-year-old understands he has to prove himself to the Giants, no matter how highly the boss regards him. He knows how hard it is for undrafted rookies to make NFL teams.
But he's been up against a tougher opponent. He's beaten longer odds.
"Everybody is under a microscope, especially undrafted free agents," Herzlich said. "Being undrafted means the league had 254 options to take you and they didn't. Now I've got to prove I'm better than those 254 and prove that I deserve one of the spots on the team. I have a lot of confidence in myself to do that."
The paycheck will have less zeroes than the one he would have made as a first-round draft pick. But Herzlich is playing football again, and to him that's just as important as any riches the sport might provide.
He doesn't think about the titanium rod in his leg when he is on the field, doesn't dwell on the fact he had cancer. Off the field, he wants to be a role model, and he wants people to know they, too, can overcome adversity.
"I tell people all the time I'm proud to be a cancer survivor. To eliminate that would not do justice to myself or to what I went through," Herzlich said. "It's part of who I am."
Right now it's Mark Herzlich of the New York Giants.
Cancer survivor and football player.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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