- Associated Press - Thursday, February 2, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The player on the screen was a 6-foot-4, 246-pound bundle of fury, flying across the field in search of another target to attack. Mark Herzlich watched himself over and over again, slamming into opponents, busting up plays and generally creating havoc for the Boston College defense.

The video he made in a college class kept him going as he sat for hours at a time for the chemotherapy he prayed would make his cancer go away.

He needed it to remember who he had been. He needed it to know he could become that player again.

“You’re sitting there and your body just feels drained. You don’t want to move,” Herzlich said. “But I knew I had to go work out after, go do my cardio if I was going to have a chance. It kept me going.”

They told him there was a chance he wouldn’t walk again. No way he would play football again.

Now he’s a rookie linebacker on the New York Giants, hoping to play in the biggest game of his life.

The rare cancer that almost cost him his leg is gone. The determination and spirit it took to beat it remains.

“I know my doctors know cancer, but they didn’t know me,” Herzlich said. “Realistically it shouldn’t be possible, but somehow, some way, it is possible.”

Herzlich desperately wants to play in the Super Bowl, though others might think being here with the Giants is victory enough. He’s been recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined him since late November and says he feels great, but is not sure if he will be on the active list for the showdown with the New England Patriots on Sunday.

That didn’t stop him from tweeting his joy about being invited here as the Giants arrived in Indianapolis on Monday for Sunday’s game.

“2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in The (hash)SuperBowl,” he told his 71,000 followers.

For a long time, playing in big games seemed to be Herzlich’s destiny. He was a dominating player at Boston College, so good he was chosen ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 after having 110 tackles and six interceptions as a junior.

But he kept getting sharp, stabbing pains in his leg that seemed to come at random, often waking him up in the middle of the night. Doctors finally ordered an MRI and diagnosed him in May 2009 with Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer that is fatal 30-40 percent of the time _ and 90 percent of the time if it spreads to other areas of the body.

The diagnosis hit him hard. He went home and upstairs to his room, where he contemplated a future that suddenly wasn’t so bright.

“It was tough, very depressing,” Herzlich said. “Cancer was just something that never crossed my mind.”

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