The New York Giants second-year linebacker overcame Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, while at Boston College in 2009 and made the Giants’ roster as an undrafted free agent in 2011.
A special teams starter for the defending Super Bowl champion Giants last season, Herzlich is now vying for a starting spot at linebacker.
It won’t be easy, as the Giants return Michael Boley, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chase Blackburn, Jacquian Williams and Greg Jones, all of whom contributed to the team’s Super Bowl winning season.
“I’m working hard toward winning a starting role this year,” said Herzlich, who appeared at the Country Club of Darien Monday for the NFL Alumni Connecticut Chapter’s sixth annual Charity Golf Classic. “I am looking forward to the challenge. It’s always a tough competition every year — the guys who play the best get the jobs. I know opportunities will arise during the preseason and I just have to take advantage of those opportunities.”
An All-American at Boston College, Herzlich began the Giants’ 2011-12 season as a special teams starter before replacing the injured Boley in Week 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He started two games at inside linebacker, but his season was cut short after fracturing his ankle against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 28.
“Starting those games at linebacker was a good experience for me,” said the 6-foot-4, 246-pound Herzlich. “I started out on special teams and did well there and I’m glad I had the chance to show what I can do at linebacker.”
Herzlich worked hard to make it back for the Giants’ postseason run, but he wound up missing the final seven games of the 2011-12 season.
“I didn’t suit up for the Super Bowl, which was tough,” he said. “But I was still able to get a Super Bowl ring, and that was awesome.”
Herzlich was delighted to see the Giants raise their level of play when it counted most.
“Watching Eli Manning consistently make great plays, the offensive line block and our running backs make big runs was impressive,” Herzlich said. “Our defense really stepped up too, causing turnovers when we needed them and making big plays.”
The Giants’ young linebacker, who registered eight tackles and four assists in an injury-shortened season, hopes to produce some more big plays this year.
“We just finished mini camp and everything went well,” Herzlich said. “Now I need to keep working out and staying fresh because training camp is starting soon.”