Is Mark Herzlich’s Comeback Overshadowing Nate Irving’s?
Let me start this post off by stating for the record that I have all the respect in the world for what Mark Herzlich is trying to accomplish.
Returning to the playing field a year after battling cancer is an AMAZING feat. He’s trying to pull off something few folks ever have.
That’s being said…I think his comeback is somewhat overshadowing an equally amazing comeback of a fellow ACC standout–Nate Irving.
I swear every time I look at the picture of Nate’s SUV you see to the right, I shake my head and wonder how he made it out of it alive. The roof on the driver’s side is nearly touching the front bench seat. When you realize Irving was somewhere in that tiny remaining cab space, it blows your mind to think that he ONLY suffered a collapsed lung, broken ribs, a compound fracture to his leg and a separated shoulder.
A year later, Irving now finds himself back on the football field, practicing with his teammates and ready to bolster a defense that sorely missed him last season.
Shouldn’t a player who came within a hair’s breadth of death, suffered the injuries he did and is now back to leading his defense from the starting middle linebacker position a mere 12 months be getting some national recognition for it?
It doesn’t seem like he is. ESPN is taking votes from its readers for their annual “Herbie” awards for Comeback Player Of The Year. On the list are three candidates: Herzlich, Baylor’s Robert Griffin and Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower.
We know Herzlich’s story, and it’s certainly remarkable, but here’s the lowdown on Griffin and Hightower:
- Griffin was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the year in 2008. Last year, he blew his ACL out in the third game of the year and missed the remainder of the 2009 season.
- Hightower is a linebacker for Alabama. During the fourth game of his true sophomore season, he too blew out a knee and missed the rest of 2009.
So we have two players who suffered season-ending knee injuries last year. Pardon me for being blunt, but could either of these players’ injuries remotely compare to those suffered by Irving? Of course not.
Did either of these players require nearly the time and effort in rehab to get back to playing shape that Nate put in to return to the field? I highly doubt it.
I suppose worrying about meaningless preseason awards granted by the four-letter network isn’t worth the keystrokes, but I hate seeing players like Irving and Russell Wilson largely overlooked because they play on an underachieving team in a conference that unfairly gets dogged for being historically weak (despite the ACC’s usual spot atop the Sagarin Rankings every year).
Irving deserves some praise for what he’s gone through, as does Herzlich, but I get the sense that Herzlich’s story has largely overshadowed Nate’s. Perhaps it’s a matter of timing, perhaps it’s State’s poor reputation on the national scene, perhaps it’s because Mark overcame cancer–a disease ESPN has quite publicly waged a war against with its association with the V Foundation…it could be all three.
But I do think Nate’s story is a very remarkable one–if not as impressive as Herzlich’s, certainly more so than Griffin’s or Hightower’s. It’s certainly worthy of nationwide recognition.
I hope we see Nate return to the form we saw in 2008 and hear folks all across the country buzzing about his amazing comeback story.