Senior linebackers Nate Irving of N.C. State and Mark Herzlich of Boston College, who bounced back from life-threatening situations to lead their respective teams’ defenses, will receive the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award, the conference announced today.
The award has been given annually since 1972 in memory of the late Wake Forest and Chicago Bears running back whose fight with a cancer inspired the entire football community.
Irving was severely injured in a car crash on June 28, 2009 and missed the entire 2009 season after suffering a compound fracture of his leg, a broken rib, a punctured lung and a separated shoulder. He returned this season to spark the N.C. State defense at middle linebacker and ranks fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 19 tackles for loss.
“One of the most rewarding things I've experienced as a coach has been seeing Nate Irving come back so strong and enjoy so much success,” N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien said in a statement. “He has been a tremendous leader for our team this year with his play on the field and his attitude off the field and is one of the reasons the 2010 team will always be a special one for me.”
Herzlich was diagnosed in May of 2009 with Ewing’s Sarcoma, an aggressive cancer that attacks soft tissue and bone. He underwent extensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments and had a titanium rod inserted in his left leg to stabilize the bone.
He suffered a fracture in his right foot as a result of his rehabilitation, and broke a bone in his left hand. He played wearing a cast for the rest of the fall, but still has recorded 54 tackles and four interceptions.
Irving is N.C. State’s fourth Piccolo Award honoree, joining Toney Baker (2009), Scott Adell (1991) and Ralph Stringer (1977). Herzlich is the first Boston College player to receive the Piccolo Award.