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A Langi story: Patriots LB's faith-filled life 

Patriots linebacker Harvey Langi.
Patriots linebacker Harvey Langi.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – On the orders of Philip IV, their king, medieval French troops rounded up hundreds of astonished Knights Templar, many of whom were subsequently put to death as a result of the monarch's jealousy of the group's growing wealth and influence. This actual historical event not only propelled the Templars into legend, but also helped give rise, in part, to our modern superstition about the particular day on which it occurred: Friday, October 13, 1307.

Indeed – coincidence or not – bad luck has since befallen many on Fridays the 13th of various months over the ensuing centuries. In the past hundred years alone, these high-profile stories made headlines: Nazi Germany's bombing of Buckingham Palace during World War II; a deadly cyclone that claimed hundreds of thousands of victims in Bangladesh; rapper Tupac Shakur succumbing to complications from gunshot wounds days earlier; the fatal capsizing of the Costa Concordia cruise ship in Italy.

More recently, precisely 710 years after the Templar raid, on Friday, the 13th of October 2017, one such incident occurred right here in Foxborough at the intersection of Commercial and Fisher Streets, not far from Gillette Stadium.

Remarkably, the young married couple to whom it happened can now look back and maintain they were lucky – blessed, in fact – not only to have survived and fully recovered from the catastrophe, but also that it unfolded when and how it did.

A UTAH YOUTH

"People don't think of 'the ghetto of Salt Lake City,' but we didn't have much," recalls Havea Hikuleo Langi, the second oldest in a Polynesian family of 10 children. Most people know the Patriots linebacker by his nickname, Harvey. Long before he arrived in New England four years ago, Harvey called Utah's capital and most populous city home. "My parents came here in the '80s and both worked three or four jobs trying to find any type of money. My older brother and I had to grow up quick."

From what he could see back then, growing up in his community meant taking one of three paths. "You either join sports," Langi explains, "or hard labor or the street life to find easy money. I felt like a lot of my influences at the time were sports or the street life."

For the big, athletic Harvey (now 6-2, 250), football seemed like a way out. At running back, he led his Bingham High School to consecutive state championships in 2009 and '10, rushing for nearly 4,300 yards and 55 touchdowns during his prep career. The nearby University of Utah in Salt Lake gave him an opportunity to continue playing while advancing his education. Yet, privileged though he may have seemed, Langi could feel dark forces at work in his life.

"My brothers," he continues, "were getting locked up [in prison], and I started falling into some patterns and lifestyles that started to go down that road, and I thought to myself, 'Man, I do not want to be like them. I don't want to waste my time behind bars. I need to change my actions and the things I'm doing.'"

Langi's parents raised their children in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known to many as the Mormon Church or LDS, but gave them a choice as young adults to make their own decisions about religion. Around age 16, Langi drifted from LDS and reveled in the extra day to play on weekends.

Yet, by age 18, during his freshman year at Utah, he chose to ground himself in his religious roots. He inquired about a missionary trip and the following year accepted an opportunity to serve a two-year LDS mission in Tampa, Florida, as he describes it, "to try to find myself spiritually and start from there … to forget myself for two years and find out who I am as a person."

Patriots linebacker Harvey Langi.
Patriots linebacker Harvey Langi.

MAN ON A MISSION

Non-LDS members might be surprised to learn that Mormon missionary trips aren't free, nor entirely subsidized by the Church. Langi's two-year sojourn in Tampa would cost him $10,000 up front to secure his various living accommodations. He'd always have a roommate – another fellow young Mormon man – but every so often, he'd have to switch. Sometimes he moved in with someone else; other times, a new person would move into Harvey's apartment.

"That was one of the hardest things," he admits. "Every two months or so, you get with a new person, they do things differently, they eat differently, they have their tendencies, little things you have to learn to communicate and adjust.

"It was cool because … he's out there for the same purpose, to share the Gospel, but we also got deep into the community serving everybody and anybody in any capacity that they needed."

Langi's mission involved very little stereotypical proselytizing by knocking on doors and more serving by example. To be more effective, Harvey and his dozen or so different companions, all fellow elders (male Mormons aged 18 or older), thrust themselves into the Tampa community, introducing themselves to Mormons and non-Mormons alike to figure out what was needed and how they might assist.

The tasks they undertook varied greatly: moving people into a new house, mowing their lawns, cutting their hair, going grocery shopping for the elderly, visiting the disabled, walking people's dogs, praying for folks, giving blessings … to name several. They even helped some who struggled with addiction.

"You'd think, what does a 19-year-old do to help a person stop an addiction? It was accountability," he adds, "telling a person, 'Hey, I'll text you every single night to keep you accountable for you to see how many cigarettes you smoked. If you want to stop smoking, I'll call you every day at these times, we'll pray for you, figure out other programs we can get you in to stop smoking.' If you just want to talk to someone and know that there are people out here to help you and love you, we're here.

"It was tough at times," Langi confesses, "but great lessons learned. I wouldn't trade those two years for the world."

However, after two years, he would be forced to trade missionary life for a return to the real world. One in which he wasn't yet sure if football would still play a part in his life.

"My mindset at the time," he reveals, "was, 'If I can just do good here [in Tampa] and serve, I'll be blessed in the long run. If football is in my path, I'll be blessed with that. If it wasn't in my path, I'd be blessed otherwise.'"

What Harvey knew in his heart, though, was that he wanted to become a husband and a father – and fast.

THREE WISHES

Upon returning to Salt Lake City, Harvey decided to leave the public University of Utah and transfer to the privately-owned, LDS-operated Brigham Young University, about an hour south in Provo. At BYU, Harvey realized he not only longed for football, but that he also harbored NFL aspirations.

History told Harvey that Polynesian running backs are few and far between at the highest level, that defensive players are more prevalent among people of his heritage. So, he stunned his then-head coach, Bronco Mendenhall, by asking for a switch to linebacker. Mendenhall informed Langi that he'd planned to make him the Cougars' starting running back, but agreed to let him change positions anyway.

Along the way, mutual friends introduced Harvey to Cassidy Wahlin, a Texan volleyball player and fellow Mormon who attended Utah Valley University, just down the road from BYU. After an 18-month courtship, they married during Harvey's junior year. Married life suited him just fine.

"I'm not saying I'm the best husband in the world, but [my mission trip] really set me up to communicate and be an adult to deal with things when I met my wife, understanding that it's not only you living under the same roof."

But Harvey and Cassidy wanted more than just the two of them in their house. They desperately wanted to start a family of their own. As Harvey racked up 139 tackles, 6.5 sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and three passes defensed over the course of his 36 games with BYU, his college football career flourished. At the same time, he and Cassidy suffered as their first two pregnancies ended in miscarriages.

"I was pissed," he recalls. "It happened once, now it's happened again. What the heck's wrong with us? Are we not fertile? It's been three years [of trying]. We easily could have had a little youngin' running around."

The God to whom Harvey prayed had granted two of his three wishes: a wonderful wife and a job with the then-Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. Langi originally made the 2017 Patriots' 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie and was expecting to be called into action for a Week 6 encounter in New York against the Jets.

"I was just so sad," he continues, "because I just wanted my baby boy or girl to be here already. I wanted to be a cool young dad, something I never had. My dad was always working, so, I'd rarely see him."

Only with the benefit of hindsight would Harvey come to understand why his third wish had been withheld.

Patriots linebacker Harvey Langi and wife Cassidy.
Patriots linebacker Harvey Langi and wife Cassidy.

FRIDAY THE 13TH

"I always try to keep one day a week when I take my wife out for just a small date," says Harvey, "even if it's a walk or something."

That particular week in October 2017, New England's then-linebacker coach, Brian Flores, had hinted to Langi that the team might activate him for the upcoming road game against the Jets. Flores wanted Langi as mentally prepared as possible for that eventuality. Consequently, Harvey neglected his weekly commitment to Cassidy.

Then, a phone call from friends came with an invitation to dinner on Friday night. Langi initially declined, but after seeing the disappointment in Cassidy's eyes, he changed his mind a few minutes later. Besides, the restaurant was less than half a mile away.

After dinner, the friends asked if the Langis wanted to get dessert elsewhere, but by then, both Harvey and Cassidy were tired and decided to head home.

While the couple sat in their car at a traffic light on Commercial Street, waiting to turn left onto the road where they lived in Foxborough, another vehicle, going an estimated 60 miles per hour, slammed into them from behind.

"It was like a movie scene ... it was terrifying," he remembers about his next memory – blood all about, broken glass, mangled car parts, his wife unresponsive as rescue crews extracted them from their vehicle with the "Jaws of Life" tool.

"They marked her as deceased, but I didn't know that," he adds. "They separated us, took us to different hospitals."

Harvey suffered neck, head, and knee injuries. Cassidy had in fact survived, but sustained fractured hips, broken ribs, and other internal injuries.

"They are hurt, but they are alive, and that's a blessing we are grateful for," Cassidy's father, Rick Wahlin, told the Deseret News of Utah at the time. "The Patriots helped us get [from Provo, Utah to Boston] as fast as possible. Many tender mercies have come their way the past 12 hours ... All Harvey has cared about is how Cassie is doing. That's been his biggest concern, and we are grateful for him and all the prayers that have been directed toward our families."

UNANSWERED PRAYERS

In one of his most popular recordings ever, country superstar Garth Brooks sings:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers

Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs

That just because he may not answer, doesn't mean he don't care

Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

These are sentiments the Langi family has come to embrace. Despite missing the remainder of the 2017 season while on New England's injured reserve list, Harvey made a full recovery, as did Cassidy. He took part in 2018 Patriots training camp and, after being released following the preseason, joined the Jets a month later. Over the next three seasons, he worked his way up from the practice squad to the active roster. In 2020, Harvey started six of 14 games in New York, then re-signed with New England as a free agent during the 2021 offseason.

As the Patriots prepared to face the Jets yet again in Week 2 of this regular season, Langi took a moment to reflect on all for which he is thankful today.

"I needed to ground myself back in my spirituality in order for me to move forward as a man. If I hadn't gone on that mission, I would have never switched over to BYU and [Cassidy and I] would have never bumped paths. Coming back from my mission, that was one of my goals, to get married and start a life with somebody. If it wasn't for that mission, I don't know where I'd be ..."

As his voice trails off on the other end of a phone line, two others chime in from the background. They belong to Harvey and Cassidy's children, a 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter.

"Right away, I wanted to be a young dad and have kids ... Crazy thing," he observes, "we were struggling to get pregnant, we get injured, and right when we both recovered from the accident, we got pregnant with my son. If we hadn't had those two miscarriages, those first two kids would have been sitting in the back of our car that night. That was our blessing. That built our faith, knowing it's not our time, it's His time. We do what we can for God and He'll always have our back, like He did there."

Harvey Langi hopes it's this message from which anyone who hears his story can benefit.

"Keep on pushing on," he advises, "even if the odds are against you, you'll be surprised."

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