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Is Mark Herzlich’s Comeback Overshadowing Nate Irving’s?

August 25, 2010

It still amazes me that Nate Irving survived this crash.

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.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Core permalink
    August 25, 2010 8:11 pm

    Isn’t Herzlich already sidelined with a broken foot? Dude has got some serious luck issues. I agree on his return overshadowing Nate’s return. Might it have something to do with the difference in records of the two programs the past 2-3 seasons? That’s my guess.

  2. David permalink
    August 26, 2010 8:12 am

    Maybe ESPN is purposely ignoring it because they did the whole GameDay at BC last year, so they won’t to keep pushing that investment….


    • David permalink
      August 26, 2010 9:51 am

      crap…9 days, I want it to be Friday so bad…

  3. Kevin permalink
    August 26, 2010 9:29 am

    Great story James… I think its easy for ESPN’s attention to go to any comeback story on the Nat’l champs, but the Baylor guy’s story doesn’t hold a candle to Irving’s – makes no sense. When it comes to blowing out knees, we could have 3-4 of those just from big teams each year. Herzlich’s story and Irving’s story are truly remarkable, and both should get national attention. I don’t have a problem with the attention Herzlich is getting – its deserved, but Nate should be getting more than he is getting. The good news is, I don’t think Nate needs it… he’ll be making headlines of his own with his play this year!

  4. Brad permalink
    August 26, 2010 2:37 pm

    I think it all boils down to this. NC State just doesn’t get national (or for that matter, LOCAL) recognition. For pretty much anything. I’ve seen all kinds of Top-N this and that, and State rarely has players listed in them, when I believe we should (all bias aside). On the national scene, I believe we’re an afterthought.

    Sometimes you have to EARN your respect, unlike our baby-blue rivals just down the road. As soon as they START making some progress, they immediately get ranked in preseason polls and stuff like that. They have a silver spoon in their mouths. It’s as if people in the media want to be the first ones to predict great things for Carolina, and be right about it. So they get over-ranked almost every year. And then they tumble.

    I sincerely hope we use all this disrespect as motivation on the field this fall. Go out and EARN it, guys!!!

  5. sbas2 permalink
    August 26, 2010 4:05 pm

    i am a big State and Irving fan, but isn’t Herzlich fighting cancer? everyone who has been touched by cancer knows how devestating this disease is. no one is really ever cured from cancer. it comes back sooner or later. Initially, Irving was more lucky to be alive, but his outlook is much brighter, isn’t it?

  6. sbas2 permalink
    August 26, 2010 4:07 pm

    now, if one ask if Irving should be on the ESPN list in leiu of those other than Herzlich, i would agree.

  7. Anon permalink
    August 26, 2010 7:55 pm

    I agree that Irving’s comeback is more amazing that two blown knees, but in the US it’s a matter of perception. No car wreck will ever equal cancer, no matter how horrid and how benign. A wreck is avoidable; cancer is at “the will of god”.

    Recovery from cancer (sba2, cancer is curable, some cases do have relapses, some don’t), is usually a long and painful process. When we hear cancer, we think “ZOMG!!!” but a car wreck needs images to provoke a strong reaction. When I saw Nate’s car I thought “ZOMG!!” but ESPN has never shown his car, I’m a State fan and this was my first time to see the picture.

  8. tjfoose permalink
    August 27, 2010 3:59 am

    I think the entire list is a farce. It’s a comback player award, and not a single one has played a single down in a game since their injury. None of them ‘comeback’ from anything, yet.

    Wait 6 games first… heck, at least a couple. Then compile your list.

    But for what it is, Nate was left off because his situation is compelling. He would pull votes from Herzlich. It is obvious with the three on the list, that Herzlich will garner almost all votes outside of Alabama and Texas.

    ESPN has its agenda. It is their award, they can do what they want with it. It is what it is. A joke.

  9. Conestoga Booster permalink
    August 29, 2010 12:49 pm

    Yoh- Herzelich is dealing with cancer, c’mon man…not an ACL not a couple of broken ribs and a compound fracture.. are you serious?? How about a comeback to life??

    But even more remarkeable is what Mark did off the field while going thru the chemo therapy .. where is that story J. Curle? This kid did not sulk and worry about himself… he went out and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer….what did these other guys do during their rehab?? Lets go…. and report the full story before casting the overshadow on others comebacks versus Marks. His is truly a remarkable story…no pun intended..

    • August 29, 2010 3:22 pm

      I’ve tried to be very careful not to diminish what Mark has gone through. I’m not trying to argue what Nate has gone through supersedes Mark’s struggles.

      What I am saying is that–relative to the media attention Mark’s comeback has received–Nate’s comeback has received next to nothing. Very few people out there realize he was even gone, and fewer still seem to grasp just how close he came to losing his life. “How about a comeback to life???” you said–Nate DID make a comeback to life. Take another look at the photo if there’s any question on that.

      This post wasn’t to tear down Mark…it was to highlight a great player who’s been overlooked in the shadow of the great things Mark’s done to make his comeback.

    • tjfoose permalink
      August 29, 2010 4:14 pm

      “But even more remarkeable is what Mark did off the field while going thru the chemo therapy .”

      True, but it’s not an ” off the field while going thru the chemo therapy” award. It’s a “Comeback Player Of The Year” award.

      With your logic, he should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, a Rhodes Scholarship, a Mother Theresa Humanitarian Award, and Miss USA.

      You actually demean what he has gone through, and give cause for embarrassment.


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