Chicago Bears second year linebacker and former Rutgers Scarlet Knight, Khaseem Green, probably doesn’t need too much motivation trying while he’s trying to solidify a job this upcoming season, but, if he does feel the urge for a little extra he won’t need to search too far.
According to the Bears official website, Green will wear number 52, in honor of his college teammate, former roommate, and good friend, Eric LeGrande. LeGrande was paralyzed from the neck down in a 2010 game against Army while attempting to make a tackle on a kickoff return. Initially, the spinal cord injury was so bad, doctors thought he wouldn’t so much as breathe again without the assistance of a respirator. He has since began intensive therapy and although he cannot yet walk on his own, he has recently graduated from Rutgers. Green spoke on seeing his friend’s struggles and turning into motivation for himself:
“I look at his battles, his every-day struggles, his every-day fight, and see that it has not limited his happiness or what he can do,” he said. “He can’t control his situation, but he can control how hard to works to get out of it and that’s what he does every single day. Watching him workout, seeing his videos on Instagram or just talking to him, his heart is so big. Just to see somebody fight like that gives me a lot of motivation.”
LeGrand’s injury was especially traumatizing for Green, who admitted seeing his friend in such peril, did effect his game. He also reveled that it was LeGrand who helped him get back to his physical style of play.
“[The injury] made me think about not wanting to play,” Greene said. “I talked to my mom and my uncle about not really wanting to play football anymore, not wanting to go through that. It even affected my play. It affected my play so much that Eric called me on the phone one day and told me that I was tackling [tentatively]. I’ll never forget it. He told me I needed to ‘man up’ and start playing ball like I used to”.
He and LeGrand grew up only ten miles apart in New Jersey, came to Rutgers together in 2008, and moved into an off-campus apartment together in 2010 before Legrand’s injury.
This is an extremely solid gesture by Greene. It will provide him with real perspective as well as continuously remind him how precious his playing days are. Wearing 52 will also, no doubt, become another driving force in his young career, as well as put a smile on LeGrand’s face. These days, he’s more grateful for reasons to smile than ever.