The sun was shining over the Patriots’ practice fields during their recent three-day minicamp, coaches shouting out instructions, players following those orders, as regular a workday as NFL players can have in their long offseason.
But sometimes regular days count as extraordinary.
For second-year linebacker Harvey Langi, for his wife Cassidy, for the crushed car they left behind and the broken bones that had to heal, for the shattered peace they lost to an accident and the irretrievable time they had to spend apart, the definition of “regular” has forever changed. For this onetime undrafted free agent out of Brigham Young, being on the field was more than enough reason to celebrate, especially when being on this earth was in doubt only eight months ago.
There Harvey was on a warm Wednesday afternoon, slipping into his position for his second- and third-team reps, gathering with his teammates for on-field huddles and post-practice hill runs, doing anything he could to ensure that the roster spot he won out of training camp a year ago will still be there this fall.
And there was the 25-year-old walking off the field, reflecting on the night that nearly took it all away, touching the long, angry scar raised alongside his left knee and understanding more than ever what his faith, and his infectious optimistic outlook on life, had taught him long ago: Life will go on, no matter what.
That that life can continue with Cassidy by his side, that the couple was here to celebrate two years of marriage last Monday, well, that’s what truly matters.
“We’ve had our pity party, and definitely I went through a lot, cried a ton, was really sad, saying, ‘Why did this have to happen to us?’ ” Cassidy recalled. “But going through it, now being totally healthy like it never happened, to see all the stuff going on in the world, things that are so much worse.
“If one of us would have died, I can’t imagine. At the time, it seemed like the end of the world, but we’re just so lucky to be alive and have each other.”
No memory of impact
Friday night, Oct. 13, nearly pulled them apart.
They were driving home after enjoying dinner with another couple at the local LongHorn Steakhouse, and were stopped at a red light at a Foxborough intersection. They were rear-ended by a Jeep Grand Cherokee that police reports described as going in excess of 50 miles per hour. The Mazda3 that Cassidy had owned since her college days was no match for the oncoming SUV.
“Both of my hips were fractured, six pelvic bones, it kept adding up every day, more and more bones,” Cassidy said. “Eight to 10 ribs. I had about 15 staples in my head. On the back of my head. We were wearing seatbelts, and I would think that helped save our lives, but still to this day, I don’t know how my head split open on the back.
“They were able to get me out, I guess. We were both still in the car. Harvey, I don’t know if you can tell from the picture. He was so smushed. They had to cut off the roof to get him out. He was totally dug in there. It destroyed his knees.”
These are all details she has been told, of course, as neither she nor Harvey remembers the actual crash, hazy images forming occasionally, seen for a moment and then gone again, described once and then forgotten.
“I remember right before and then right after, when I woke up 30 minutes after,” Harvey said.
Perhaps that is best. He doesn’t need to relive moments like telling his wife he saw rescue workers cover her body, thinking she’d died, just as she doesn’t need to recall asking over and over again where her husband was while ambulances took them to separate hospitals.
“We didn’t see each other for three days,” Cassidy said. “I was constantly asking for him.”
Just as he was for her.
The reunion would come at her bedside in Brigham and Women’s hospital, recorded for posterity and shared on a moving Instagram post, allowing them to remember those joyful, grateful tears, the start of a 10-day stretch in which Harvey would barely leave her bedside.
Crutches be damned, he supplemented the small couch in the room with a second one from another room, creating a bed to accommodate his 6-foot-2-inch, 238-pound frame.
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Friday the 13, 2017 was date night for Harv and me 👫On our way home we stopped at the light to turn to our house, when all of a sudden a SUV rammed straight into us. I completely blacked out and don’t remember anything, while Harvey remembers seeing me, his wife, laying lifeless and gushing blood. It’s been 3 days since that moment and we were finally reunited. We have been in the hospital for a few days and still have a few days to go. We are so completely blessed to have each other to lean on through all of this craziness. We are so grateful for all of our family and friends who have taken the time to come visit us, reached out to us, prayed for us, and have shown us their love and support. Our hearts are completely full right now ❤️ I just want my husband Havea to know how blessed I am to be your wife. I know this is a huge trial we will be facing but I know we can get through this together, day by day. Thank you for always loving me and staying by my side through it all. I love you with all my heart babe 💜😘
And as they looked at each other — Harvey waiting for the swelling to subside before follow-up surgery on his knee, Cassidy headed for months of bed rest while her broken bones mended — the only thought was, “I wish that were me.”
“She could have gotten a scratch on her nose and I would have felt horrible,” Harvey said. “Football wasn’t on my mind. My wife was. That was my No. 1 concern. She’s a champ and she’s super strong. She comes over football. I know football is everything to me but she literally is everything. I don’t even know how to describe it. I was just so down, just hoping everything would be OK for her.”
And from Cassidy: “When I look back at it now, if anything, I wish I could have been the one who just got hurt. I’ve had multiple surgeries being an athlete. This has been his lifelong dream. This is his life.”
But this is their life, rooted in Mormon faith and similar competitive genes. He a football star, first as a running back at his hometown University of Utah, then as a transfer to BYU, where he switched to linebacker; she a volleyball player at Utah Valley University and fan of BYU, where her dad played football.
‘A great comeback story’
It was Cassidy’s family (including her mother Raleen) that oversaw most of her recovery, welcoming the couple home and taking all visitors, including her three siblings, her best friend, and many of Harvey’s 10 siblings, too.
“In the hospital, my pelvis was the most painful thing,” said Cassidy. “They thought they might have to go in and put plates in. But it just needed to fuse back together. Same with my ribs.
“Both of those injuries are the most uncomfortable you can have. I could never get comfortable. Sitting hurt. Laying down hurt.
“We got to fly back. He’s from Utah, I’m from Texas, but my family moved to Utah, so we went back to Utah.
“I got depressed. Because I couldn’t do rehab. I had to sit there. That’s what drove me crazy. I couldn’t do anything. I want to say it was February when I got back to the gym. At first I had to use the walker; I couldn’t use crutches because of my ribs. Then I could use crutches to help me walk. Not as much pressure on ribs.”
Eventually, she was jogging again, they were East Coast-bound again, and she was back to her job at an area gym. And Harvey? He made his way back, too, painting over the shock and worry and replacing them with new lessons in perseverance and persistence as he rehabbed his knee and allowed his head and neck to recover.
The same guy who made the Patriots roster after not getting drafted, the same guy who impressed coaches and teammates with versatile skills and irrepressible drive, who’d played in one game and registered one tackle against New Orleans, well, he looks as good as ever.
He and Cassidy may be awaiting prosecution of the other driver (Millis resident Kevin M. Conroy, 25, was charged with felony drug possession, negligence, marked lane violation, and possessing an open alcohol bottle in his vehicle) but they continue to move forward with their lives.
“He’s only going into his second year, and I’ve seen him play a ton of positions, be on all the special teams,” defensive captain Devin McCourty said. “I’ve heard Bill [Belichick] say for years that unless you’re one of the best in the league, you’d better be able to do multiple things.”
“The coaches out here, if they want me to change position, I’ll do that,” Harvey said. “I want to come out and do whatever they want me to do, whatever is best for the team.
“For me, I take it very personal, being undrafted. My approach is, ‘I’m here for you guys, accountable, work hard.’ That’s all it is, every day.”
Veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy, a fellow BYU grad, marvels at his friend’s journey, from the scariest night of his life to a recent chance meeting at a movie theater when they shared smiles, from his first uncertain days at training camp to the three-day team camp when football came full circle.
“To see him walking around, joking, loving life, how they are right now, it’s a huge blessing and a bonus to see him back on the field,” Van Noy said. “Words can’t describe the amount of stress and different things he went through last year and to be where he is now.
“It’s really remarkable and a great comeback story. I’m super happy for him regardless if he continues to play football.
“And if he doesn’t? I’m just happy he’s on this earth.”