Cancer survivor Mark Herzlich signs with Giants

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Mark Herzlich, the Boston College linebacker who survived cancer, has signed with the New York Giants as a free agent.

Herzlich announced his decision Tuesday morning in a tweet.

“Decision is made,” he tweeted, adding that he’s happy to be a Giant and can’t wait to get to New York.

Herzlich was chosen ACC defensive player of the year after his sophomore season. He was diagnosed with bone cancer and missed the 2009 season. He returned in 2010 for the Eagles and started all 13 games. He had 65 tackles, forced two fumbles and intercepted four passes.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin is a former Boston College coach whose Jay Fund Foundation aids the fight against cancer. Coughlin created the fund in 1996 in honor of Jay McGillis, who developed leukemia while playing at BC.

“We are excited to give him the opportunity to see if he can make it in this league,” said Giants chief executive and co-owner John Mara. “He’s a great kid who had obviously been through a lot. I’m in favor of the signing and, in fact, I suggested it. We think of him as being a prospect.”

Herzlich, 23, was on everybody’s watch list after his big season in 2008, when he had 97 tackles, including 12 tackles for losses, 1 1/2 sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

However, he was diagnosed in the offseason with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Doctors said he might never play football again.

After hours of wondering “why,” he said he focused on the future in a telephone interview with The Associated Press before this year’s NFL draft.

“You have to look past that and see that you have something that you want to live for, you want to beat the cancer for,” Herzlich said. “That was my focus the whole time. You can’t really look back over your shoulder and think what could have been. You have to kind of just push forward and see where I’m going to get to.”

He had a tumor removed from his left leg and a titanium rod inserted. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Herzlich was not drafted and the Giants on Tuesday decided to give him a chance to prove he can play in the NFL.

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