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Fighting for My Life and the Love of the Game with Mark Herzlich

Mark Herzlich

In 2008, Mark Herzlich, was one of the best college linebackers in the country, an All-American, and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. After his junior year, at the very top of his game, Mark was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He was told by his doctors that he had as low as a 10% chance of survival and that his playing days were over, that he might not ever run again. He was just 21. 16 months after Mark was diagnosed, he was back on the field playing for Boston College and in another 16 months he had won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants. Mark played in 11 games, starting two at linebacker for the 2011 Super Bowl Team. Mark went on to play 7 seasons for the New York Giants and retired in 2018.

In May 2015, Mark married his college sweetheart Danielle, who is a retired Captain in the United States Army, New Jersey National Guard. Danielle, who was a victim of physical, mental and emotional abuse as a child, and Mark have made it their mission to end relationship violence. The couple are national board members, fundraisers, and constant volunteers for The Joyful Heart Foundation, which works to create a world free of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. They are also national board members for A Call to Men, which works to create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful, and where all women and girls are valued and safe. Mark and Danielle have spoken all over the country to schools, Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams and college teams, educating them on healthy relationships and healthy manhood.

In 2015, Mark also published his memoir titled, “What it Takes: Fighting for My Life and My Love of the Game”. Mark currently works for ESPN as a college football analyst and is the founder and host of “The Superhero Dad Podcast.” The podcast works to inspire men to put their capes on when they walk in their front doors, not just when they walk out of them. Mark has two children and lives in New England with his family.

Mark’s life journey was a rough one, but he consistently talks about how his father was there for him through it all. As fathers, we can learn from this and try to create a realm of psychological safety for our children. They look up to us and open up to us. If we don’t make them feel safe, they will learn to hide their problems and seek help elsewhere. Being a present father in our children’s lives is something that we should never take for granted. Take Mark for example. If his father hadn’t been there to say, “Let’s do this,” he might have taken the wrong path that would have ended his career. The fact that his father was there throughout the entire journey and finally said, “We did it” shows the commitment Mark’s father demonstrated throughout his son’s life.

Take the time today to allow your children to come to you with any and everything. It’s such a gift to have your child feel safe enough to come and talk to you. It builds a bond and trust that you don’t find anywhere else in life.

What You’ll Learn: 

[6:59]

Mark recalls his childhood and what his family was like.

[11:20]

Mark talks about how his parents influenced him and his brother when they were younger.

[18:48]

Mark talks about the moment he decided he wanted to play football professionally.

[22:07]

Mark talks about when his professional football career finally took off.

[24:45]

Mark remembers the emotions he felt when he first heard his diagnosis.

[27:07]

Mark talks about his training schedule and what his first round of treatment looked like.

[34:45]

Mark talks about his father’s role in his treatment and how he helped him through it.

[38:12]

Mark talks about what happened at the end of his treatment.

[44:01]

Mark talks about the emotions he felt when he received the phone call that he was cancer free.

[45:32]

Mark talks about how he felt when his dad said, “We did it.”

[47:13]

Mark talks about his seven-year NFL career.

[47:30]

Mark talks about how he met his wife and how he created an environment of psychological safety for her.

[58:40]

Mark talks about the power of psychological safety.

[1:01:12]

Mark talks about what his family will be celebrating 20 years from now.

[1:04:12]

Mark talks about the things he is grateful for about his dad if his he were sitting in front of him.

RELATED EPISODES:

Finding Your Inner Strength Through Adversity Comes from Within with Ben Newman

Mindset is the Key to Success with Vernon Fox III

Embracing Fear and Living Life to the Fullest with Sal Frisella


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