When the Chicago Bears drafted Khaseem Greene in the fourth round of the NFL Draft last year, he was assigned No. 60, though he would later switch to No. 59 for the regular season. Neither of these numbers could possibly mean as much to him as the number he will wear this upcoming season. Greene will switch to jersey No. 52 this season to honor his former Rutgers teammate Eric LeGrand.
For those that are unfamiliar with the story, LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down during a 2010 game against Army when he suffered a spinal cord injury while making a tackle on a kickoff. Doctors initially said that he would never breathe without the aid of a respirator. LeGrand was heavily motivated during his rehabilitation, eventually learned to breathe on his own and has even regained some movement in his shoulders and arms. Rutgers has since retired LeGrand’s number, and he has become a beacon of motivation for everyone surrounding the university.
When Greene was drafted by the Bears he wanted to honor LeGrand by wearing his jersey No. 52, though he was unable to because the number was already taken by veteran Blake Costanzo. With the Bears opting to let Costanzo walk via free agency this offseason, the number became available and Greene jumped on the chance.
Last season in his rookie year Greene played in 15 games and started four of them, recording 38.5 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble. Now, heading into his second year in the NFL, Greene will be asked to continue to develop his game while the Bears groom him to take over for an aging linebacker corps. Greene should have a little extra motivation heading into this season, as every time he looks down he will be staring at the number that his good friend would have been wearing had he not suffered his injury. At the time of LeGrand’s injury he was a roommate and close friend of Greene’s, and the two remain close today.
When asked how this motivation will carry him forward Greene didn’t hold back as he told the team website:
“There’s no such thing as a tough day for me just knowing what one of my closest friends goes through on a daily basis. I know he would give anything to be in my position. Just knowing that, it keeps me going. It’s really an unbelievable story and tragic injury, but the perseverance and the way he carries himself is something that I can hold onto and carry.”
There certainly have been worse reasons for a player changing their number, though there hasn’t been one this noble in quite some time. Hopefully Greene can carry this motivation over into a great sophomore season.
Mike Cuddy is a Chicago Bears writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeCuddy, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.
Read more at http://www.rantsports.com/nfl/2014/04/14/chicago-bears-will-benefit-from-eric-weems-st-experience/?tYYhhczVk069vofz.99