Along with the Ewing's sarcoma that turned Boston College LB Mark Herzlich from a first-round pick into an undrafted free agent having to scratch his way onto an NFL roster, another reason he was not picked in April, we hear, is that many scouts did not believe Herzlich would become a core special-teamer in the NFL right away.
The reason? Speed. Herzlich had a titanium rod inserted into his leg from his hip to just above his knee because of the location of the cancer, and it greatly diminished his ability to run at his previous rate. It also hurt his lateral speed, and because of that, scouts deemed him a one-dimensional player who had to earn his way on a roster as a one- or two-down defender and a very limited participant on special teams, perhaps only as a blocker on the field-goal unit.
Once more, the cancer survivor proved the doubters wrong.
"Herzlich didn't bat an eye the whole camp," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. "Physically, he did everything you asked and more. I saw him improve literally week by week. He can play multiple positions. He's very smart. He does an outstanding job on special teams. He's told one time and he goes and does it. He deserves it."
Coughlin felt that Herzlich was too versatile to cut, and his presence in the locker room can be an inspirational element for a team that could use some good vibes amid a fairly dark August.
Herzlich stood out with his instincts on defense, too, tallying five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception during the preseason. He might eventually earn a game-day role there, but Coughlin hinted that more work needs to be done.
"Herzlich had an outstanding sack and did a nice job on special teams (in the preseason finale against the Patriots). (Sixth-rounder Jacquian) Williams had a big night — he came off the edge very well and played very well on special teams. He got a big block on the punt return. Herzlich did, too.
"They continue to get better. I didn't like, to be quite honest, their response to the Jet thing (their play in a 17-3 loss to the Jets on a Monday night). I thought some of them were a little big-eyed. But the other night they were locked in there and they did a nice job."
And now Herzlich is locked into a roster spot for now.