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Jay McGillis' fight inspired Herzlich

10/29/2011

Tom Coughlin took the night off from football on Friday.

For Coughlin, that’s a rarity. After all, he barely took time off during the Giants' bye week.

But there was a reason Coughlin was nowhere near a football field Friday night. And it was a good one.

Mark Herzlich

Mark Herzlich

#58 LB
New York Giants

2011 STATS

  • Tot3
  • Solo2
  • Ast1
  • FF0
  • Sack0.0
  • Int0

Coughlin was in Manhattan to raise funds for his Jay Fund foundation, which provides financial and emotional support for families of children with cancer.

Eli Manning, Prince Amukamara, Bear Pascoe, Zak Deossie, Jim Cordle, Brandon Jacobs, Mathias Kiwanuka, Lawrence Tynes, Mark Herzlich and other Giants joined Coughlin at the event.

“It’s very very satisfying and very rewarding,” Coughlin said.

It was important for Herzlich to be there in particular.

The Giants linebacker survived Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, in his left leg while at Boston College and said he was inspired by the foundation’s namesake, Jay McGillis, during his fight.

McGillis developed leukemia while playing at Boston College under Coughlin, which spurred the coach to start the foundation.

Herzlich said he fed off of the emotion of McGillis’ family during his battle against Ewing’s sarcoma, which included six hours of treatment for five days a week.

“The last thing you want to do is wake up the next day and go in for more chemotherapy,” Herzlich said on Friday before the fundraising dinner at Cipriani. “That’s that constant grind that can mentally get really challenging.”

But the thought of McGillis served as motivation, he said. So did the idea of returning to the football field.

“I always had [that] goal in my mind since the first day,” Herzlich said.

He returned to the field with Boston College in 2010 and was signed by the Giants as a free-agent that spring. The 24-year-old made the roster after a strong showing in the preseason and has been a key cog on special teams.

His story has inspired many and will be featured on CBS' 60 Minutes on Sunday.

It's also had a profound impact on his teammates.

"Every time I see him I think about that him beating cancer and being able to make it through," running back Brandon Jacobs said. "Mark fought a tremendous battle and won. It's a lot of fighting you have to do and you have your life on the line and you got to be strong and you have to have a lot of support and he had it. . . . I look up to him. We already know he's going to be one hell of a football player."