You know Tom Langan. He's the guy with an infectious smile, clipboard in hand and numbers at his fingertips, navigating the pulsing sideline at St. Anthony's football games as he keeps pace with what's happening on the field.
He's the team statistician, a volunteer job he's done going back to two decades. And while Langan, 57, has missed games through the years, he has been as much a fixture in the Black and Gold as coach Rich Reichert himself. In fact, the two are cousins.
"I try to tell the kids, 'You have so many dedicated people here you don't really realize they are doing things for you behind the scenes,'" Reichert said. "This is really important to him. And he does a really good job for us."
. It's no surprise Langan will be there doing his duties for the Friars.
The remarkable part is that Langan is here at all.
The same day St. Anthony's beat Iona Prep on Oct. 9, 2009, Langan's left leg was amputated above the knee. It was the result of a freak infection gone wrong and a previously undiagnosed condition.
Reichert gave his cousin the game ball in the hospital. He stopped in every night after practice. And he's been there for Langan ever since, through a long and evolving rehabilitation process.
His big step forward came during the . Langan made his return to the St. Anthony's sideline, albeit with his clip board balanced on a walker.
"Tom was there all the time. And we counted on him all the time," St. Anthony's athletic director Don Buckley said. "So when he was out last season, it was obvious. Everyone was saying, 'Where's Tom?'"
Langan, who is still adjusting to using his titanium prosthesis, recently transferred from a rehab facility in Long Beach to an assisted living home in Medford. Each day is another closer to normalcy.
"I can get around," said Langan, who is on disability after a career spent in retail. "I use the walker and I'm training with the cane right now. My goal is to walk without anything. It may take two years, but I'm going to do it."
Today Langan's life is packed away, boxed up in Reichert's garage. He was an only child and never married. The football program is his family. Langan finds deeper meaning in everything now, especially on the sideline of a football game. It's one small but significant step in the rehabilitation process.
"People say, 'It's a shame what happened to you," Langan said. "I say, 'It happened.' You have to do your best to adjust. You do the best you can to get your life back."
It's not the first time. When Langan's father died in 1964 – when Langan was all of 10 – Reichert's dad took on the role of surrogate father figure. So the cousins spent a lot of time together and grew as close as brothers.
This is Reichert's 24th season at the helm of the St. Anthony's football program. Langan joined him on the sideline starting in 1991.
"Richie asked me," Langan said. "He said, 'Can you help me out? You're good with numbers.'"
The closest he had been to a sports venue was as a vendor at Yankee Stadium growing up in the Bronx. But Langan took instantly to his statistician duties.
There were unexpected benefits. The winning was addictive. Being close to his cousin was great. He forged lasting relationships with the coaching staff. And the positive energy flowing from the teenaged players energized him.
"It keeps me young being around the teenagers," Langan said. "The coaches treat me great. It's like I'm part of the staff. I feel like I'm part of the St. Anthony's family."
That family has seen him though an ordeal.
When Langan discovered a pebble embedded in his left foot, he removed it with tweezers. It drew a little blood. He bandaged it up and didn't think twice about it. That was August 2009.
But the wound became infected. Langan ignored it, expecting it would get better. Then the infection spread to the bone. Next thing Langan knew he was unable to get out of bed. He called his cousin.
"As soon as I saw his leg I knew he was in trouble," said Reichert, a former Nassau County Police officer. "He almost died that night. It was really bad. Gangrene."
Reichert rushed his cousin to in Smithtown. Langan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which only exacerbated the injury. And his leg would have to go. Surgery was scheduled just 24 hours later.
"When you wake up you see what's not there any more," Langan said, "it's a shock."
All that seems like a lifetime ago. Langan has been to five games this season. He was on the sideline when . The title game will make six. He has a job to do.
"This gives me an incentive to do something," Langan said. "It gets me outdoors. I'm seeing people again. I'm more determined. You have to push yourself to do it."
Sometimes it's easy to overlook the courage of the everyday.
"He's a true inspiration," Buckley said. "He's done so well with his rehab, most of the kids don't even realize there's anything wrong. He doesn't draw attention to himself. He's a guy behind the scenes."
On the same turf where athletes push themselves to the limit for the glory of sport, so is the humble stat guy. He's simply learning to stand tall and walk once more.