Mark Herzlich, who squeezed seven NFL seasons and a Super Bowl ring out of a career that defied long odds, was released by the Giants on Saturday as part of the team’s cutdown to a 53-man roster. He was the third-longest- tenured Giants player in training camp this summer, and his departure leaves only two players remaining from the Super Bowl XLVI team: Eli Manning and Zak DeOssie.
Herzlich, who turned 31 on Saturday, was a star at Boston College when a cancer diagnosis derailed his football future. Doctors told him he might never walk again and that football was out of the question. But Herzlich overcame Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, and returned to the field for the Eagles as a senior.
Herzlich signed with the Giants as an undrafted rookie after the lockout and managed to make the team. He became the starting middle linebacker for the Giants for two games midway through that season, but an ankle injury sidelined him. The Giants brought back Chase Blackburn to fill in, and it was Blackburn who started the rest of the season through the Super Bowl win.
Herzlich’s role on the team evolved into a leader and a solid special-teams contributor. He was a do-anything Giant who even changed his jersey number and flirted with the possibility of being a two-way player as a linebacker and tight end. He missed all of last season on injured reserve after suffering a burner in his neck in training camp, but he remained with the team as a mentor in meetings.
Herzlich emerged as one of the team’s more active participants in off-field charities and was the Giants’ nominee in 2017 for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. He also was active representing the Giants and other players in the NFL Players Association.
Herzlich returned to the field this season and worked primarily with the second-string defense as an inside linebacker. In four preseason games, he recorded 14 tackles, tied for the most on the team.
“Excellence is the result of CARING more than others think is wise; RISKING more than others think is safe. DREAMING more than others think is practical and EXPECTING more than others think is possible,” Herzlich wrote on Instagram on Saturday.
While Herzlich’s playing days with the Giants are over, many expect him to return to the organization someday in a different capacity.