Jets fans of all kinds seem to be taken with Harvey Langi. The Green & White fanatics at home love the energy he brings to the game, especially the past month since he became a starter at inside linebacker. The network announcers have been noting how "No. 44 is making plays all over the field."
Head Coach Adam Gase's hot take on Langi's first start, in primetime against New England: "He was flying around, man."
Those who know Langi's back story have an even greater appreciation for the player and the man. More than three years later, he still talks about a transformative event in his life, when, as a Patriots rookie, he and his wife, Cassidy, were involved in a horrific car accident in Foxborough, MA. Cassidy sustained multiple broken bones, wounds and a concussion. Harvey sustained injuries to his knees and was told afterward that maybe he should consider another line of work besides pro football.
"A drunk driver hit us," Langi recalled after the Jets' Wednesday practice as they prepare to host the Raiders at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. "The situation put me in a pretty bad spot. But once I knew we were OK, it changed me as a person. Don't take anything for granted. The things that are important are your family and your friends. You've got to keep those things tight.
"Then once I knew I was all right, that I could move my arms and move my feet, I said I'm going to overcome this, do everything to get back on the field. Now before every game, I take a deep breath and say, man, I can't believe I'm playing this game again. It's awesome and I'm super-blessed to be on this field again. I can't just sit back and let this opportunity slip away. I need to be as ready and prepared as I can. Whatever opportunities come in front of me, I need to attack them."
Langi has done that since signing with the Jets' practice squad in 2018. He worked feverishly in the 2019 offseason, before playing in all 16 games, and even this offseason whose normal schedule was shattered by the coronavirus pandemic. He played 83 defensive snaps in the opener at Buffalo, but for the next seven games he was asked to focus almost exclusively on special teams.
Then when Avery Williamson was traded to Pittsburgh, Langi's new role was to move from OLB to ILB and start next to Neville Hewitt. He put up a career-high 10 tackles against the Patriots, then set another personal best with 11 tackles at the L.A. Chargers. Last Sunday he "fell off" to a mere eight tackles vs. Miami, but his 9.7 tackles in those three games is the ninth-best average among NFL defenders from Week 9 to present.
"Harvey knows the opportunity is there and he's going to make the most of it," Gase said. "You're talking about a guy that was playing outside linebacker last year and now he's inside, started the season like that, and now has more games under his belt and more experience and understanding the system. I think he's been able to put himself in pretty good position. It was good to see him just play. How hard he plays is impressive to watch."
"I feel like I can always improve," the thoughtful 6-2, 250-pounder out of the state of Utah and BYU said of his recent play. "Personally, we think there's always something else we could take back or we could do more or something else of a more technical sort. Me, I'm my biggest critic. I feel good being out there, but I want to figure out ways I can improve and keep helping this defense out."
And by doing his own thing in his intense way, Langi may well inspire not only himself but his teammates to "flip the script" and achieve the Jets' elusive first win.
"It's not going to be a perfect road in front of us all the time. Right now it's pretty bumpy for us," he said. "Coach Joe Vitt tells us all the time, you can either fall back or you can fight. A lot of us, we do not want to fall back. We want to fight.
"That's all we can do in this situation: just keep stacking. All we can do is come in every day willing to work, do the things you need to do for your job. I want to come in here and do my job as well as I can do it, as consistently as I can do it, for as long as I can do it."
With that kind of inspiration, the W can't be far behind.
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