Mark Herzlich jumped at the chance to wear his old college number, 94, for the New York Giants when Mathias Kiwanuka retired after the 2014 season. So it wasn't easy a few weeks ago when the Giants told him he had to give it up.
But he really had no choice.
"I needed to have an eligible number," Herzlich said.
And while No. 94 was fine for a linebacker, it wasn't legal for a tight end.
After six NFL seasons as a linebacker and special teamer, Herzlich, now No. 44 on the Giants roster, will be a tight end this season, too. It's a position he hasn't played since high school, more than a decade ago -- with the exception of a couple of snaps in goal-line packages in 2015 and some reps with the scout team over the last few years.
That was enough, though, for the coaches to approach the 6-foot-4, 246-pound Herzlich this offseason with the apparently serious idea of playing ironman football, of sorts. Herzlich, who re-signed with the Giants for one year and $855,000 this offseason, not surprisingly jumped at the chance.
"It's exciting," Herzlich said, just before he was honored with the Hometown Hero award for his community service work at the United Way's Gridiron Gala on Tuesday night. "A lot of times I'm playing scout-team tight end the last couple of years just because we were low in numbers and I was able to show I could be versatile in that aspect. So, when it's, 'Hey, you want to come add another weapon to your repertoire?' It's, 'Yeah, sure, sign me up.'
"The more I can learn, the better. And the better I can help out, the better, too."
It remains to be seen how much Herzlich will be used at tight end, if at all, of course. The Giants signed free-agent tight end Rhett Ellison this offseason and drafted another, Evan Engram, in the first round of the NFL draft. They also have Will Tye and Jerell Adams returning at that position and Matt LaCosse attempting a comeback after missing last year with a knee injury
Still, Herzlich's attitude is, "The more things you can provide for a team, the better." And he expects to be ready whenever - and wherever - he's called.
"(I'm) learning the whole offense and figuring [out] where I can help," Herzlich said. "That's always been my thing: Wherever the Giants need me to help out I'll be there. Learning offense is the next part of that.
"Honestly, we'll see what Coach (Ben) McAdoo puts me at, but I can go back and forth and learn both. I anticipate helping out in all three phases."