Beating the odds in a fight against a deadly cancer for most people would mean staying alive. For Mark Herzlich, who was diagnosed with bone cancer while he was a football star at Boston College, living meant playing football in the NFL. Three years later, he's living his dream on the New York Giants, a titanium rod supporting his now cancer-free left leg, starring in a sports story that's an inspiration to millions. Byron Pitts profiles the Giants player on "60 Minutes" Sunday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Extra practice, workouts and special regimens to get back the strength and agility that made him a college star finally paid off when he made the Giants this summer. "He's a football player. He's dedicated. He's smart. He learns very quickly," says New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin. "And he earned it primarily on his special teams play and his intelligence. You tell him one time what to do and he does it."
Resuming full-contact hitting on the football field again was exhilarating, for Herzlich. "It was awesome. I felt like normal again," he tells Pitts. But normal isn't good enough in the NFL. "There is still... I just got to prove I can help this team win. They asked me to come here because they wanted to see if I could play football and not see if I was over my cancer," says Herzlich.
The journey to get over the cancer and into the NFL began with a decision doctors did not recommend. Instead of a cadaver bone to replace his cancerous femur, he opted to treat the cancer with chemotherapy and radiation and shore up the femur with the titanium rod. It would give him his best chance to play football again.
He returned to Boston College to play last fall, but after the season, he was not drafted by the NFL. Determined to make it, he began training in Florida - a grueling program to prepare him for the pros. A final MRI gave him the go-ahead he needed to play at the pro level. His dream started to fall into place when the NFL strike ended and he was called by several teams for tryouts. He picked the Giants. "It's definitely the right fit for me and you know I'm ready to go," he said.