Michigan cornerback Jeremy LeSueur needs only to glance at the tattoo on his right biceps to put his personal errs of the past in perspective.
Inscribed in LeSueur’s flesh, and ultimately forever ingrained in his mind, is an image of the face of his younger brother, Jeremane. Surrounding the image are the words, “His Pain is My Pain” and numbers “4:13” – which signify a Biblical verse in Phillipians which reads:
“I can do all the things through Christ which strengthens me.”
Jeremane, 15, who is mentally retarded and has suffered from chronic epileptic seizures since he was an infant, hasn’t always had the strength to walk.
He doesn’t have the mental strength to fully understand that Jeremy is living his football dreams, playing in front of 110,000 fans each week.
He probably couldn’t comprehend the “living hell” Jeremy was going through last year after a costly penalty and embarrassing off-the-field arrest for soliciting prostitution brought him into the center of public ridicule.
But Jeremane unknowingly gives his older brother the strength to admit and learn from his mistakes. He helps give Jeremy the proper focus to move on.
“You never want to take anything for granted,” Jeremy said. “Because you never know what can happen or when it can happen. You just have to live for the moment right now.”
Right now, Jeremy is living for the moment. After finding himself fighting for the trust of his coaches and his starting cornerback position in spring practice, he’s now playing a critical role in Michigan’s secondary. He said his confidence is finally at the level it was when he was a highly touted recruit out of Mississippi nearly four years ago.
“I’m a totally different person than I was a year ago,” Jeremy said. “I’m more mature, and I’ve learned from a lot of stuff.”
LeSueur learned the hard way that the media and fans aren’t always forgiving. On a crucial 4th-and-16 play in last year’s heartbreaking, last-second loss to Michigan State, LeSueur’s admittedly “dumb” personal foul face-mask penalty gave the Spartans new life on their game-winning drive.
“I wish I could go back and change that play,” LeSueur said. “Until I saw it on (television) I didn’t know how bad it was to be honest. I was shocked and felt horribly bad for my teammates.”
Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp, unaware of LeSueur’s brother’s condition, made matters worse by calling the play a “brainfreeze” in his column the next day. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr called Sharp’s words a “vicious, mean-spirited attack.”
“Mr. Sharp should know that Jeremy has a 13-year-old brother who was born with a severe brain injury,” Carr said at that time. “And he should know his inexcusable use of ‘brain freeze’ has resulted in ridicule and made Jeremy’s life this past week a living hell.”
Fans and media didn’t realize that Jeremy and his mother, Annetta – a school teacher – often alternated missing several school days to take care of Jeremane.
“We’d have to take him to the hospital up to 15 times per night because he’d have seizure after seizure,” LeSueur said. “He had two or three surgeries, either over his heart or on his brain. We were hoping he’d grow out of it, but we just thank God he’s able to walk and get around and do stuff – that’s important.”
Learning to focus has always been of great importance to LeSueur – both on and off the field – and the junior found a unique superstition over the summer that has helped him.
He said he wrote the word “focus” on a slip of paper and places it in his helmet every time he plays – and will keep it there until he leaves Michigan.
But isn’t the thin piece of paper disintegrating from all the sweat, mud and blood from this season?
“It’s hanging in there,” LeSueur said with a grin.
And so is Jeremy.