Former-Boston College linebacker and cancer-survivor Mark Herzlich was probably the biggest name to go undrafted this past spring, and as recently as Monday night, he was rumored to be headed to the Baltimore Ravens. But Tuesday morning, he surprised the NFL by announcing he'd signed with the New York Giants. So, why New York?
If you've been following Herzlich's incredible story, you might wonder... How does this stuff work after draft day? How does a guy like Herzlich get signed? And what tips the scales in one team's direction? Just like in real business, it's all about connections.
And as far as connections are concerned, you couldn't find a better place for Herzlich to land in the pros. I'm a BC alum, which is why I've been paying closer attention to Herzlich, and why I'm a little embarrassed I didn't see this coming sooner. Could he have gone anywhere else? At every level, the New York Giants are like the unofficial NFL affiliate of BC football.
- The owner. John Mara, current president of the New York Giants, graduated cum laude from Boston College in 1976. Multiple Mara children and cousins have attended BC since.
- The coach. Tom Coughlin broke into the NFL head coaching ranks with the Jacksonville Jaguars before joining the New York Giants, but his first head coaching job was (you guessed it!) at Boston College from 1991-93. His daughter, Katie, graduated BC in 2004.
- The players. Chris Snee has been a mainstay on the offensive line in New York since he was drafted by Coughlin in 2004. Snee's girlfriend at the time had just given birth, and just happened to be Coughlin's daughter, Katie. Elsewhere, in 2006 the Giants surprised most draft experts when they took BC's Mathias Kiwanuka. Now, Herzlich will join his former teammate in the linebacking corps this month.
None of this reflects on Herzlich, of course. He would have gotten the same opportunity in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and probably any training camp in the league. It's not even a criticism of the Giants, because they got themselves a kickass football player, regardless of why the pursued him. It's mostly a reminder that the people making free agent decisions are human just like the rest of us, and personal connections to players like Herzlich may matter more than you'd think.
There's no big conspiracy; it's just kind of cool. Now, if the Giants doing something crazy and sign a washed-up BC alum like Matt Hasselbeck? Then it might be time to make this a longer conversation.