INDIANAPOLIS — Marcus Cannon, the rookie offensive lineman of the New England Patriots, stood on the turfed floor of Lucas Oil Stadium, taking in all the sights and sounds of Media Day Tuesday morning as members of the media came to him.

A couple of hours later, Mark Herzlich, the rookie linebacker from the New York Giants, stood in almost the same spot, surrounded by members of the media.

The story that Cannon and Herzlich share is one of inspiration and hope. Both are cancer survivors.

“I don’t know if there’s ever been another Super Bowl with two cancer survivors,” said Herzlich, who played at Boston College.

Herzlich was diagnosed with what doctors called career-ending bone cancer in his left femur in 2009. Cannon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, just before that year’s NFL draft.

They don’t know each other well, but because they share the same agent, they know each other well enough to talk about their experiences.

Just Monday night, they shared text messages, just to see how the other was dealing with being in the Super Bowl.

“That’s probably the last time I’ll talk to him before the game,” said Cannon. “Hopefully we can get together after.”

Until then, they’re simply opponents.

“Marcus has made a miraculous turnaround,” said Herzlich. “I love Marcus. I wish the best for him. Just not this week.”

What they both share is a love for football and their teams. They were not going to let cancer end their dreams.

Herzlich, in particular, faced a devastating choice. After his junior season at BC, in which he was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Herzlich had a pain in his left leg that wouldn’t go away.

When it was finally checked out, the MRI revealed a tumor that, he said, “encompassed my full left femur.”

After two months of chemotherapy, he was told that doctors wanted to cut off his femur just above the cancer, which would end his dream of playing in the NFL. He balked at that, instead choosing a much riskier procedure in which he had a titanium rod placed in his femur and underwent radiation treatment.

“I had to trust my doctors and go with my gut,” he said. “I knew if I wanted to actually be the person I wanted to be, I had to run around and play with my kids out in the backyard or go and play football. That’s the choice I made. After you make that choice, don’t give up at all.”

And once the surgery was done, Herzlich had to learn how to walk and run with the rod in his leg.

Herzlich went undrafted last April, signing as a free agent with the Giants.

Cannon, despite his diagnosis, was still drafted in the fifth round last April by the Patriots out of Texas Christian University.

The Patriots allowed him to go through all his treatment before he joined them on Nov. 15. Since then he has played as a reserve in nine games, including the two playoff wins.

When he talks about his cancer, it’s almost as if he doesn’t think he endured much.

“Everybody keeps saying I’ve been through so much,” he said. “But I’ve been blessed now so much that it doesn’t seem like that. It didn’t seem like I had too too much on my plate. God really pushed me through everything, so I can’t say everything was overwhelming.

“The only thing that’s really overwhelming right now is that we’re at the Super Bowl.”

Cannon said that after a few dark days, he put his faith in God to pull him through. “God has a plan for all of us,” he said. “I think the biggest thing (he could say to anyone dealing with cancer) is to have faith, have trust in God that everything is going to be all right. If I didn’t trust in Him that everything would be all right, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Now he’s cancer-free and close to where he was before he became sick.

“I’m feeling great, feeling like I’m where I need to be right now,” he said.

Herzlich no longer even thinks about his leg. “Running down field on a kickoff, running onto the field, I feel like the speed is back to where it was in 2008,” he said.

As Herzlich patiently answered question after question, it was obvious how happy he was to be here.

“After everything I’ve been through with my health, what my family’s been through, this is a real big reward,” he said. “Whether it’s coming from above or what, I feel very blessed that our team can have this experience and I can come along with it.”

Herzlich and Cannon are trying to treat this as another game, one of hundreds they’ve played. But they both know differently.

“I’ve come a long way,” said Herzlich. “But the journey’s not over yet. I keep saying there’s going to be another chapter, another chapter (to his life). Hopefully there are a lot of chapters yet to write.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH