Giants’ Tae Crowder inspired by bond with Georgia boy after hardship

From afar, a 14-year-old boy roots for Tae Crowder with all his heart … a heart that required open surgery when he was two weeks old to repair coarctation of the aorta and bicuspid aortic valve.

They met three years ago, and clicked immediately, and not a week goes by when Addison Turner isn’t inspired by Tae Crowder and the rookie Giants linebacker isn’t inspired by the boy.

Their bond was forged and strengthened in part because Tae Crowder once knew a different kind of heartache and heartbreak. He was a University of Georgia freshman when his best friend Cortez Johnson Jr. was killed when he was hit by a car on his motorcycle. Tae, one year younger, considered him a brother.

It challenged him to overcome this personal adversity in a way that Addison Turner understands in his everyday life better than most.

“He came home and he was home for like two weeks, and the coaches kept calling him telling him he needs to get back to school and get back to work,” Crowder’s mother, Veleca, told The Post. “It took a toll on him.”

It is why Crowder has an LLB tattoo across his chest and neck. It signifies Long Live Big. Everyone called his friend Big Man.

“Whenever someone sees me, they see him. One of those people that was a blessing to be around growing up,” Crowder recently told The Post.

Crowder grew up in tiny Pine Mountain, Ga.

“Every time he comes home when he gets a break or something, he go visits his grave all the time and stays down there for like hours,” Veleca said.

Crowder was the only child growing up in a single-parent home.

“I explained to him the situation that I was his mom and his dad,” Veleca said.

Crowder, a quarterback once upon a time who admired Michael Vick, was set to play at Georgia Southern when Georgia, his dream school, swooped in at the 11th hour. Then he was switched from running back to linebacker. When Veleca asked him at the time if he thought about his plans after college, she remembers him saying, “Yeah I’m going to the NFL.”

Before he overcame the odds to become the 255th and very last pick of the 2020 NFL Draft — Mr. Irrelevant — before he made Joe Judge’s team, before he fought his way onto the field, fate had introduced Tae Crowder to Addison Turner.

It turns out that Tae’s mother works with Addison’s stepfather, Randy, at Interface, where she is a team leader. When Tae learned as a redshirt sophomore about the boy, he sent him a pair of gloves. Which is when Addison’s mother realized after losing touch over the years that Tae’s mother was a childhood friend who had played basketball with her growing up.

“Addison is very grounded in his faith and the first scripture he ever sent Tae was Philippians 4:13 [I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me],” Addison’s mother, Christie Holland, told The Post. “About the same time is when Tae’s best friend was killed, and the scripture was like Tae’s motto.”

Tae and Addison met face-to-face for the first time on Dec. 23, 2017.

“I don’t know how to explain it … when I say they feed off each other, we just know Tae worked so hard to get to where he is and not supposed to be there, and he just continued to push and push and push,” Christie said. “And that’s kind of the way Addison is. Addison’s condition at times are worse than others, but he really pushed and tried to remain positive, and it makes a big difference when you have somebody like Tae that took the time to show you you matter.”

When Addison was bullied in sixth grade, Tae encouraged and lifted him.

“I was picked on at my school for what I couldn’t do with my heart condition,” Addison said. “We just talked and it helped me, I guess, cope with the bullying and everything.”

Asked what Tae told him, Addison said: “Just basically for me to keep my head up, I guess.”

Addison will text Tae a good luck message before most games, and Tae will respond with a similar text every week.

“I feel like we can relate,” Addison said. “I’m not allowed to play football. He wasn’t supposed to play, but now, you know, he’s in the NFL.”

Addison is able to play basketball and golf today at a private high school. He will require more surgery, however. His mother, a nurse manager, notes that he is maxed out on blood pressure meds.

“From time to time we’ll reach out to each other just to check in — I just try to look out for him, he tries to look out for me,” Crowder said.

Sunday’s Giants victory over the Washington Football Team was not televised in Lagrange, Ga., but a friend sent Addison an Instagram post of Crowder’s scoop-and-score 43-yard touchdown.

On Sunday night, Addison made sure to send Tae the following text: “Wow. I didn’t get to see the game, but I just found out that you scored, and all I can say is that that’s amazing.”

And Tae texted back: “Thanks, Bro.”

To Addison Turner, more than anyone, Tae Crowder is Mr. Relevant.

“Very,” the boy said.

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