Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Updated: July 27, 3:57 AM ET
Giants sign Mark Herzlich
By Ohm Youngmisuk
One player many considered the jewel of the undrafted free-agent rookie class has chosen to sign with the New York Giants.
Boston College linebacker and cancer survivor Mark Herzlich saw a major opportunity with the Giants, who need help at linebacker.
"It is a great opportunity for me to get in and play and be on a team," Herzlich said Tuesday during an interview on "SportsCenter." "And it is a great community feel, it is a family-owned team. I know the Maras and (coach Tom) Coughlin from Boston College. It seemed like a great place to be."
Speaking to reporters at the Giants' facility, which opened to players for the first time in months, CEO and co-owner John Mara said he "suggested" that the team sign Herzlich, an inspirational figure to many and a linebacker he described as "a prospect."
"He's a great kid and he's certainly had his share of obstacles to overcome," said Mara, who also told reporters that the Giants had yet to lose any of their own free agents as of late Tuesday morning. "And we're excited to give him the opportunity."
Herzlich once was considered one of the top linebackers in college football. However, he missed the entire 2009 season due to Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
He recovered in time to return for Boston College's 2010 season, when he recorded 65 tackles and four interceptions and started in all 13 games.
He is driven to prove to doubters that he can play, after teams passed on him in April's draft.
"My health is great right now," he said. "I had my checkup yesterday actually ... and everything was cleared and everything was fine."
"When you (are) told that you can't play football, when no teams want you at the draft, you got to just keep pushing," Herzlich said. "I've been told that I couldn't play football before, and I played. Again at the draft, I was told we don't want you to play, but now I'm back."
Herzlich has been training in Florida and says he feels fast and fluid. He vows to be an aggressive and intense linebacker on special teams and in any package defensive coordinator Perry Fewell utilizes.
"I do have a chip on my shoulder," Herzlich said. "There really is no other way to go about it. What I want to see out of myself is I'm going to be a force on the field wherever I am placed. I will be on all the special teams, on defense, wherever I'm placed, whether it is a backup role or in certain packages, wherever I get on the field it is going to be intensity, aggression. It is going to be plays made."
Herzlich is the latest Boston College product on the Giants, joining Coughlin -- once BC's coach -- and former BC standout Chris Snee.
Herzlich also is friends with Giants free-agent defensive end and former BC star Mathias Kiwanuka. Herzlich wore Kiwanuka's No. 94 at Boston College.
Herzlich is the third rookie linebacker the Giants will need to bring up to speed quickly. They drafted Michigan State's Greg Jones and South Florida's Jacquian Williams in the sixth round.
The Giants currently have Jonathan Goff at middle linebacker and Michael Boley starting at outside linebacker. Clint Sintim is making his way back from knee surgery and Phillip Dillard is entering his second year after barely playing last season.
Keith Bulluck, Chase Blackburn and Gerris Wilkinson are free agents, and the Giants could add another linebacker in free agency.
But for now, they have added one very determined linebacker who certainly will fit in the Coughlin mold.
"They are a great team, have a great D-line and pass rushers (with) Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka," Herzlich said. "They are a pressure team and like getting pressure on the quarterback and they need some 'backers to be there. They have some great players right now but I feel like I have an opportunity to go in there and make something happen."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo was used in this report.