During the national anthem, Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich stood on the sideline at Met Life Stadium, closed his eyes and thought to himself, "This is happening."
Minutes later, Herzlich, a cancer survivor, would make his first NFL start at middle linebacker.
"It is a dream come true," he said.
Herzlich overcame a rare form of bone cancer in 2009 and made the Giants roster as an undrafted free-agent. He contributed on special teams through the first ten weeks of the season and got the start at middle linebacker Sunday night with Michael Boley sidelined due to a hamstring injury.
"The game was fun, it was exciting. It's something I’ll remember for a very long time," Herzlich said. "But the turnout is not what we except."
Results of the game (a 17-10 Giants' loss) aside, Herzlich played pretty well.
He found himself around the ball most of the night, in a position to make plays. He finished with four tackles (two solo) and broke into the backfield on several occasions, disrupting the Eagles.
It wasn't all good, though. The rookie was on the field for the Eagles' 18-play, nine-minute game-winning drive in the fourth quarter
"It's not really acceptable," he said. "I'm frustrated. It’s disappointing. If you’re a competitor your never satisfied with a loss."
But he was satisfied to make his first pro start.
"That part of it is a dream come true," Herzlich said. ".... When the national anthem was playing and the flag was out, and I knew I was going out on the field I closed my eyes and I thought, 'This is happening.'"