Characters Unite

characters welcome

NFL Characters Unite

In NFL Characters Unite, Herzlich meets 12-year-old Elijah, a boy with a form of Cerebral Palsy, which debilitates mobility in his legs. He has a tough time walking - frequently falling because of his disability - and is often teased and bullied by kids at school. A crushing moment for Elijah was when he was excluded from his school's field trip to go ziplining. He had prepared for the activity with his physical therapist and had his doctor's permission to participate, but the school asked that he not attend. Elijah was heartbroken, as it was another reminder of what he can’t do. Herzlich meets Elijah during the boy's physical therapy session and shares his own personal story of feeling different and alienated because of his physical limitations. He then surprises Elijah by taking him to the North Jersey Equestrian Center, which has a program that uses horseback riding as a therapeutic tool for those with disabilities. At the facility, Elijah learns to ride, and discovers he is able to do something he thought he never would be able to do. After the experience, he feels empowered and confident, and learns that he should Never Say Never to his dreams.

MARK HERZLICH
New York Giants

NY Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich understands what it's like to be discriminated against and prevented from doing something you love because of a disability. When Herzlich was a student at Boston College, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and pursued an aggressive treatment. Doctors told him that he might never walk again. Wheelchair-bound for several months throughout the treatment, Herzlich felt many people were putting limits on him that he wasn't putting on himself. Many told him he should give up on his dream of playing football again. Even those he had thought were friends made judgments about his stamina and his abilities and often left him out of plans and activities that they did not think he could handle. He became even more determined to beat the cancer and play football again. Not only did Herzlich walk again, but he went on to make it to the NFL. The experience taught him that with determination, willpower and support, people can overcome extreme challenges. He has also become a staunch advocate for equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities.