- Associated Press - Monday, September 5, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Mark Herzlich is putting his battle with cancer behind him and looking to a new chapter in his life _ as an NFL player with the New York Giants.

The recently turned 24-year-old linebacker is never going to forget cancer. That’s impossible.

There’s a titanium rod in his left leg as a constant reminder of the rare form of bone cancer that caused him to miss the 2009 season at Boston College. If that isn’t enough, there are memories of the draining effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and those lingering doubts about life.

It’s always there. Things like that never go away.

But Herzlich doesn’t want the past to define his life. It’s time to move on and play the game he loves, and Monday was the official first day of his NFL career.

“I want to go from being a feel-good story to making an impact on the field,” said Herzlich, who talks about his fight with cancer without hesitation, while giving clear hints that he would rather be discussing football.

That’s his life now, and that’s his focus.

Still, Herzlich can’t deny he has beaten the odds. The 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year got back on the field last season with the Eagles, and he made the NFL despite being passed over in the draft.

The Giants signed him as a free agent and he impressed everyone in training camp and in four preseason games. The final step was surviving the cuts that reduced the Giants‘ roster to 53 players Saturday. He did that, too.

Herzlich spent Monday getting ready with his teammates for the season opener against the Redskins in Washington Sunday.

“I got through today, so that’s one day,” Herzlich said. “I don’t think anyone tries to make the NFL for a day, so we’ll see how the career goes.”

The 6-foot-4, 246-pounder expects a lot out of himself. If he makes a bad play, he expects to be booed. He doesn’t want anyone’s sympathy.

“I expect them to be (angry) at me if I make a bad play,” Herzlich said. “I’m (angry) at myself if I make a bad play.

“I don’t think your story is ever over. When you talk about this story that’s actually my life; yeah, it’s a story, maybe the book is getting toward the end of the chapter. But that’s my life and that’s going to keep on going.

“Lots of changes are going to happen, whether as related to football or what,” Herzlich added. “It’s time to start a new chapter.”

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