LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Nov. 18, 2009) – Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, who recently overcame a rare form of bone cancer and helped inspire more than $120,000 in donations for cancer-related causes, has been selected for the Disney Spirit Award given annually by Disney Sports to college football’s most inspirational figure.
Herzlich will be presented with the award during The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards at Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday, Dec. 10. The 19th annual awards show is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. ET and will be televised live on ESPN.
“The Disney Spirit Award is an award that means more to me than any award based on statistics and on-the-field achievements,” Herzlich said. “I have had to battle a deadly rare disease this past year and, along with beating the disease, I was fortunate to be able to help others along the way. To be recognized with this award is an honor and I hope that it shows people around the world that there is hope and that it will encourage them to continue to battle.”
In 2008, Herzlich emerged as one of the top linebackers in the country, earning All-America honors and being named the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. After he passed up a chance to go to the NFL as a junior, his football career was in jeopardy this summer when he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a malignant tumor most often found in bone or soft tissue. A week later, Herzlich began treatment to ward off the cancer in his leg.
Following Herzlich’s diagnosis, support poured in from both the Boston College community and around the country. His Eagles teammates created their own chapter of Uplifting Athletes, a national organization that works with college football players to fund rare disease research, holding a Lift for Life event which raised $31,500. Additionally, Boston College initiated a “Beat Cancer” campaign and sold gold T-shirts that honored Herzlich.
Beyond the Boston College campus, other schools and organizations such as Clemson, Florida State, NC State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Virginia, North Carolina and the Orange Bowl all donated to Uplifting Athletes in Herzlich’s name. And Herzlich himself made personal visits to cancer patients near campus and on the road to share his story and offer words of encouragement.
On Nov. 2, Herzlich received his final chemotherapy treatment and is currently cancer free. Later this month, he will have a rod surgically inserted into his leg to strengthen the bone. After a two-week recovery process, he will begin his journey to rejoin the Eagles on the field for the 2010 season.
“Mark’s indomitable spirit in the face of such a devastating illness and his extraordinary support of cancer research embodies the true essence of the Disney Spirit Award,” said Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Disney Sports Enterprises. “Disney Sports is proud to honor Mark for his courage, optimism, support of other cancer patients, and his determination to return to the football field next season. He is truly an inspiration to all of us.”
The Disney Spirit Award is presented annually to college football’s most inspirational figure. Herzlich becomes the 14th recipient of the award, joining past honorees Daniel Huffman (1996), Dwight Collins (1997), Matt Hartl (1998), East Carolina University (1999), Hameen Ali (2000), the United States Service Academy football teams (2001), Dewayne White (2002), Neil Parry (2003), Tim Frisby (2004), the Tulane University football team (2005), University of Louisville band member Patrick Henry Hughes (2006), Zerbin Singleton (2007) and Tim Tebow (2008).
Tebow was selected as the 2008 recipient on the merits of his remarkable humanitarian efforts, including juggling the extraordinary demands of being one of the marquee players in college football, with countless hours spent preaching and providing support to less fortunate people.
In 2007, U.S. Naval Academy slot-back Zerbin Singleton overcame several obstacles growing up, including leaving Alaska after his mother’s incarceration to follow his dream of becoming a part of the U.S. space program. Initially accepted into the Naval Academy, Singleton’s aviation dreams were derailed by injuries from a car accident one week before graduating as class valedictorian that left him unable to participate in the Navy’s plebe summer. Singleton enrolled his freshman year at Georgia Tech until he was healthy enough to transfer to the Naval Academy.