The story of Boston College's Senior Linebacker Mark Herzlich is fairly well-known by this point, so we'll boil it down for anyone that's catching up.
- He was ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.
- A likely first round pick, he turned down millions and returned to BC.
- Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with cancer.
- Not just cancer, though. Ewing's Sarcoma, one of the more lethal brands of cancer, and incredibly difficult to treat.
I was a senior at Boston College when all this happened, and on campus, the talk wasn't of whether Herzlich would ever play again, but whether one of our classmates would survive. It was a scary, scary thing. Then, he beat it.
And now, almost as amazing, considering doctors had deemed it impossible at the outset, he's playing football again. He'll figure prominently in Boston College's 2010 defense. And since Herzlich is already like fives steps past "miracle" territory, it's worth asking: What if he plays as well as he did before the cancer?
It's early, and there are a whole bunch of "ifs" involved, but... From Eagle in Atlana:
Most BC fans expect Mark to contribute and be an emotional inspiration this season. If he is pretty good and BC is pretty good, Mark will still be the center of attention on a weekly basis and an inspiration to us all.
Mark clearly expects more than that. He wants to be better than he was in 2008. If he is better than his ACC Defensive Player of the Year season, he will win the Heisman. That's not hyperbole. Regardless of my BC allegiance, I believe that after the Reggie Bush nonsense, the media/Heisman voters would trip over each other in a rush to mail in their ballots for the All America, cancer-conquering linebacker from a BCS conference. The hype and pride surrounding his recovery would quadruple if Mark plays that well. No other candidate would stand a chance.
It's a good point: If he returns to his '08 form, who could beat him?
And it'd be one of the best stories in college football's recent history, to say nothing of the personal triumph for Herzlich. Writing about this now is nothing but unabashed homerism on my part, but still. Think of the story, and the inspiration it would provide for the millions of cancer patients around the country.
Could it happen? It's a long shot.
But Herzlich has been a long shot for a solid two years now, and he's still showing up.
And if it happens... Wow.