Eric LeGrand and Khaseem Greene met the summer of 2008, as incoming freshmen at Rutgers, two New Jersey players who lived 20 minutes from each other but had never competed against one another or bumped into the other at a camp or a combine. Almost instantly, LeGrand says, the two connected.
Greene is mellow and relaxed, a bit of a quiet type with a slick smile that shows he's having a good time. His friend LeGrand is the polar opposite, a pack of sugar filled with energy who is often the loudest person in the room.
Very quickly, the two became friends and “brothers.”
On Oct. 16, 2010, LeGrand was paralyzed playing special teams in an emotional win over Army. His friend Greene went on to be drafted by the Chicago Bears, but wanted to bring his close friend to the NFL with him somehow. So he decided that during his second season, he'll wear LeGrand's No. 52 jersey.
“He knows I will never play again,” LeGrand told Yahoo Sports. “So he wants to wear it for me and play for me.”
As a freshman LeGrand picked No. 52 as his jersey number, an homage to his football hero Ray Lewis. He thought he was going to play linebacker at Rutgers but instead ended up moving to defensive tackle. He kept the number anyway.
“I told them that I thought it was a cool number so I wanted to keep it," LeGrand said.
Greene has been vocal about not just his friendship with LeGrand, but playing on behalf of his fallen friend. Last year, Greene wore No. 60 during preseason and then moved to No. 59 before the season started. But with the roster changes this offseason, he knew he'd have the opportunity to get No. 52. Greene told the Bears' coaching staff that he wanted to make the switch and very quickly, he was wearing the number that has been retired by Rutgers.
“He told me a couple months ago that he thought it might happen,” LeGrand said. “I know it meant a lot to him to do it for me. He plays like I did, always hard, always fighting and going to the ball.
"For me, it's a definite honor that he wanted to wear my jersey number.”
LeGrand said that he plans on attending a game in Chicago this year to see Greene play in his No. 52. After the game, Greene plans on giving his former teammate his jersey as a keepsake.
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Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer