CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Boston College star linebacker Mark Herzlich, the ACC defensive player of the year in 2008, has a history of taking full advantage of his opportunities on the field.
Today he wants to show that knack off it.
He will be profiled on ESPN's College GameDay, which is broadcasting at 10 a.m. from BC's campus as the Eagles prepare to host Florida State, providing him the chance to raise awareness about the rare form of cancer he's battling and perhaps raise money for research. Herzlich announced May 14 that he had been diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a malignant tumor that usually starts in bone or soft tissue.
"There's a lot of people going through this right now," he said. "They need help. They need inspiration just like I got from others. That's what the whole story is about."
Herzlich, 22, received good news earlier this week — a MRI exam showed the cancer is in remission. After having more than 30 chemotherapy treatments the past five months, sitting four hours in a chair each time, he has just a few more left during the next month. He also had five weeks of radiation that ended in late August.
Through it all, he has remained remarkably upbeat and confident in his recovery, even eyeing a return to the field next year.
"There's no other option," said Herzlich, who has been helping the Eagles' young linebackers when he can. "If you start to question things, if you start to lose hope, then there's no way of beating it. … I take every day when I'm feeling great and cherish it, and the bad days, I just wait for the good days."
He has received hundreds of letters of support, from ACC football coaches to cancer survivors to a world-renowned athlete who faced cancer, cyclist Lance Armstrong. He has saved them all and promises he will forever.
"Those are the people I want to be like, helping others when I get the chance," he said.
He already has. Thanks to his call to action, BC has raised $28,000 for Uplifting Athletes, a national organization that works with college football players to fund the research to fight rare diseases. The school also is selling "Beat Cancer" T-shirts, with all the profits going to the American Cancer Society in support of Ewing's sarcoma. Fans are encouraged to buy and wear gold "Beat Cancer" shirts and make today's game a "gold out."
Before BC's game Sept. 19 at Clemson, Herzlich was given a Clemson No. 94 jersey (his BC number is 94) signed by the Tigers seniors and a $5,000 check for Uplifting Athletes. Virginia Tech has a campaign to raise $5,000 by the Oct. 10 game against BC. FSU is donating $9,400.
"Mark is a tremendous individual," coach Frank Spaziani said. "Certainly he's a role model for being a spokesman for this project he's undertaken here, and the fact that he's been able to be successful with his treatments is just a tribute to him."