AL HAMNIK: No shortage of feel-good stories at Super Bowl XLVI

2012-02-04T22:00:00Z 2012-02-07T16:40:09Z AL HAMNIK: No shortage of feel-good stories at Super Bowl XLVIBy Al Hamnik Times Columnist
February 04, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Every mega-sporting event has more compelling stories than a Hollywood divorce lawyer and Super Bowl XLVI is no different.

There's 5-foot-8 Patriots' defensive back Ross Ventrone, who was involved in an incredible 21 team transactions -- signed, cut, signed to the active roster, cut again -- this season.

"I grew up always wanting to be like my big brother. Now, today, I kinda want to be like my sister," Ventrone said. "She was never cut by Bill Belichick."

There's Michigan City native John Parry, son of the late officiating legend Dave Parry, leading the seven-man crew as referee for today's game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Parry, in his 12th season as an NFL official, has worked nine playoff games and was a side judge in Super Bowl XLI between the Bears and Colts.

There's Indianapolis Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning, suddenly "recovered" from a neck injury and dominating the news while grabbing attention away from brother Eli, who set an NFL record this season with his 15 fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Giants.

There's guard Chris Snee, son-in-law of uptight, fussbudget Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin.

There's kindly Patriots' owner Robert Kraft, who still can't speak publicly about wife Myra's recent death without tearing up.

But the story I found most compelling was that of Giants' linebacker Mark Herzlich's recovery from Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

Herzlich got the diagnosis as an All-American at Boston College, when an MRI found cancer in his left femur. He was told the survival rate was 10 percent.

If surgeons removed the femur, he might survive but his football career would be over. Herzlich gave an emphatic no. He had a 13-inch titanium rod surgically implanted in the femur to strengthen it, then underwent six months of chemo and five of radiation.

Miraculously, the 24-year-old beat the cancer.

When the Giants landed in Indianapolis last Sunday night, Herzlich tweeted: "2 years ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off the plane in Indy to play in the Super Bowl. Take that sh*t cancer."  

Forget Herzlich had only 12 tackles this season.

Or that he went undrafted.

The Giants signed him last summer and he's done more to inspire teammates than any overpaid motivational speaker could.

"Toughness, grit, determination," Coughlin said. "The decisions he made with regard to his disease in terms of wanting to play and get back on the field were not easy decisions for him.

"All through camp, he worked his ever-loving (butt) off every day, fully padded and ready to go."

Herzlich, meanwhile, has been bouncing around Indianapolis like a child on its first trip to Disneyland.

"It was really my family and my teammates at Boston College who were always there for me and pushed me through the tough times," said Herzlich, his hair still growing back.

"I think it is a little bit of a miracle. It was just a case of me beating the odds. Obviously, I'm in a great place now."

Regardless of today's outcome at Lucas Oil Stadium, we've got a winner here you can bet on.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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