I moved to the Philadelphia area in June of 1996 after living in New Jersey for the first eight years of my life. Luckily for me, I never switched of to the dark side and became an Eagles fan.
When I started school in the fall, the biggest kid in Mrs. Vogel's third grade class at New Eagle Elementary School was none other than a nine year old Mark Herzlich. At that point, he was already playing football with 12 year olds, and he was ALWAYS the first person picked in recess, for just about any sport. To add to the fact that he was a man child was the fact that Mark was just a nice kid. I always knew that Mark was going to make it on the athletic field, the only question was whether it was in football or lacrosse.
For high school, I went away to boarding school in Illinois, so I didn't get to see Mark play very often then, but since he was a teammate of my brother in both football and lax, I followed the teams from afar. My sophomore year, I went to a game on thanksgiving, and Mark (playing fullback) took a handoff from his own ten yard line and took it to the house. At the same time, he was probably the best player on the school's lacrosse team, and he was just as good, if not better in lacrosse than he was at football (he had an offer to play lax at Johns Hopkins.) Football was what he decided eventually, and he committed to play at Virginia before switching his commitment to Boston College.
I followed his college career pretty closely, and I could tell from the time that he was a freshman that he was something special. He had a couple teammates at linebacker that were fairly highly touted, Jo-Lonn Dunbar (now of the Saints,) and Brian Toal (from Don Bosco Prep). You could tell almost immediately though, that Mark was better than both of them from just about the beginning. It was exciting to me that someone I had known for so long chasing the football from sideline to sideline for an extremely competitive college football team. During Mark's junior year, he was probably the best linebacker in the country, but he was hosed in the national award voting (Aaron Curry won the Butkus Award despite coming in second in ACC Defensive Player of The Year voting to Mark.) Heading into his senior season, Mark was looking like the best returning defensive player in all of college football, and then he was diagnosed with cancer.
The stories about Mark since he got cancer, and his return to the field have all been well publicized, and it's obvious from reading here that Ed and the BBV community at large are Mark Herzlich fans. When I saw that he went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, I was initially devastated, because I know that he's a good enough player to contribute in the NFL, but I knew that he has some obstacles to climb. As someone who knows who Mark Herzlich is, and what he is about I know that he is both a fine football player and a fantastic human being. I can just sit back and hope that this lockout ends very soon, Jerry Reese makes every effort to sign him, and that I get to see a great football player that I was fortunate enough to grow up with run out of the tunnel at The Meadowlands wearing a Giants uniform in front of 80,000+ screaming fans.