BOSTON (CBS) – When local shoe company Saucony was looking for a spokesperson for their "Find Your Strong" campaign, they knew they had found the perfect person in Mark Herzlich.
"Inside each of us exists a surprising strength; we need only find and harness it," the campaign reads. It is almost as if it was written for Herzlich.
One of the most inspirational players in football, Herzlich has done it all. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. The next year, he overcame Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. After winning his battle, Herzlich returned to football, playing all 13 games for Boston College in 2010 with a titanium rod in his leg.
Then came the NFL. Herzlich went undrafted, but signed on with the New York Giants. He made it through the preseason, and won his spot on the team.
For the 24-year-old, his was the perfect voice for the Find Your Strong message.
"It just seemed to fit so well," Herzlich said from the company's headquarters in Lexington, where he told his story to employees on Friday. "I knew that I felt a connection with it right away because I remember the exact process of being told I had cancer, and finding strength inside me. That's a process, finding the strength inside you to get past that and say 'you know what, it doesn't matter if I have cancer. I'm going to beat it and do what I love again.'"
Levan Reid With Mark Herzlich Part 1
"There is nothing wrong with being proud and doing something you love. Being an inspiration and helping other people is something that I do love to do," said Herzlich. "It's something I never want taken away; I never want that cancer survivor to be erased from beside my name. That is something I will always be, and always be proud of."
"I wouldn't be the same person I was without it. That's what I try to tell people going through it. Don't be ashamed of something you're going through; don't feel bad that you have cancer. Be proud that you're beating it. You're doing something that is very hard to do, and you should do it with a smile on your face."
Giving inspiration is something Mark is all about. Saucony employees even went so far as to paint their faces for the presentation, the same as Herzlich does each time he hits the field.
But he also made a point to let everyone know where he goes to be inspired. All he has to do is look down.
When you see him play, you'll notice Herzlich is always looking at his gloves. There, the name "Brad" is written in honor of his younger brother.
"Brad has been kind of a rock, a solid point in my life since we were little," he said. "He was four years younger than me, but he matured at the same rate as me, which I don't know if it's good for him or bad for me."
"He's always been there. Throughout the whole cancer treatment process, he never treated me differently. I was always his big brother. He was always proud of me, and we always had that connection," Mark said of his younger brother, who would spent a lot of time with him during his days at Boston College.
Levan Reid With Mark Herzlich Part 2
"Now he's doing his own thing at Brown," Mark said of Brad. "I could not be more proud of him because he has stepped up and said 'I'm going to create an identity for myself and do my own thing at Brown, and really love what I'm doing.'"
Herzlich said he loves to come back to Boston, and it has become another home to him. That was on display in his final preseason game this season, when the Giants played the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. It was Mark's final chance to show he had what it took to make the team, and even though he was in the oppositions uniform, he still felt the love from the those that watched him in college.
"I knew everybody had tweeted at me, Facebook messaged me to say 'I'm not saying I'm going to wear a Giants jersey or anything like that, but we hope you do well.' To have that support in Boston, this really has become my home. I feel like I really grown up here; through what I've been through and through college."
"I love this city, that's why when I get five days off from the Giants, I come up here and come back to the place that I love," he said.
But just because Herzlich is in the NFL does not mean he is done reaching his dream. He is ready to make the next jump, and soon after that, will be looking to make the next one.
"I have this little bit inside of me that I'm never satisfied. I think that if you're satisfied with what you're doing, you're not trying to do better," he said. "That's how I am."
"I think I'm doing well with what I'm doing right now, but I always want to reach that next step. That next step is for me is playing on defense. Then the next step is starting. The next step, I want to be a dominant player in the NFL that I was in college."
"That's a goal in the distance, but I think I can reach it."
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