The inspiritational tale of Boston College outside linebacker Mark Herzlich began a new chapter Saturday with his starting -- and finishing -- his first conference game after missing the entire 2009 season while recovering from Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer of that strikes approximately two out of a million people under the age of 30.
Herzlich's ability to play at all is inspritational in itself. But while anyone with a heart is happy to see him returning to health, NFL scouts get to shift their attention to how well he's playing.
Herzlich wasn't the same dominant player against the Virignia Tech Hokies Saturday that earned the 2009 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He was, however, considerably improved in terms of his conditioning and overall play than in his first two games for the Eagles.
Starting at his traditional strongside linebacker position, Herzlich showed some burst as a pass rusher, good strength in taking on and shedding blocks against the run and both athleticism and instincts while in pass coverage. Perhaps the most encouraging component of Herzlich's game was the reckless abandon with which he played. Herzlich was flying around the field Saturday, even leaving his feet to dive over the top of pass blockers to get into passing lanes.
Herzlich defended two passes, recording the ninth interception of his career in the 4th quarter. He was also in on a host of tackles. Most impressively, Herzlich made the plays that don't show up in the stat books, taking on blocks to funnel the action back inside and covering enough ground in pass defense to force Virginia Tech passer Tyrod Taylor to look elsewhere on multiple occasions.
Herzlich's Eagles lost to Virginia Tech 19-0 -- but there was definitely a silver lining in this game.
With nine more regular season games to go, here's hoping that Herzlich's game to game improvement continues.