Spring 2021 Magazine

Michigan State's Joshua Langford leads through his faith while sidelined with injury

Michigan State junior guard and co-captain Joshua Langford was having a career year when he sustained a stress fracture in his left foot Dec. 29. Langford’s 15.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists were personal bests, and a huge part of the team’s success.

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He hasn’t played since and was ruled out for the season Jan. 30. However, Langford’s influence had always been felt in more ways than just basketball. Both Langford and junior redshirt forward Kyle Ahrens, who is also out for the season with a severely sprained ankle, have made it their mission to encourage, inspire and challenge their teammates from the bench, leading any way they can.

“I think both of those guys are unbelievable leaders and they mean a lot to our program,” assistant coach Dwayne Stephens told The State News. “For the freshmen, especially, because they’ve been there and they know what’s expected of them every day, what coach wants out of them. Those guys are able to help [our younger players] a lot. Usually, you’ll see one guy on one side with one wing and one on the other side.”

Langford has always had a reputation as a leader, especially in his faith. In a 2016 article for USA Today, Langford, then a high school senior, said, “I think you have to put everything in perspective. We are here for something more important than basketball and that’s Christ. I have been trying to push myself better spiritually. Everybody pushes themselves in school and in basketball, but you have to answer to God. It’s not like He’s going to ask you how many points you scored. I believe I’ve done a pretty good job with that and it’s helped push me to higher heights.”

Langford leads a Bible study at Michigan State with freshmen Aaron Henry, Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham Jr., who are also his roommates. Bingham refers to Langford as the “preacher” of their apartment and it’s clear Langford’s preaching is wearing off on his teammates.

“There’s a lot more things in life than picking up a basketball, just being a part of that just shows what we’re all about,” Henry told The State News. “It shows why I came here — to make more than friends or just teammates, but to make brothers for a lifetime.”

Langford traces his commitment to his faith in Jesus to when he was 12 years old and contracted bacterial meningitis, the same infection that killed his father’s cousin years before. Langford’s headaches, fatigue and hallucinations at the time led to an illness that he now says almost killed him too.

“Basically, I was on my deathbed,” Langford told AL.com. “The doctors didn’t know if I would make it. It was real scary. It was a life-threatening situation. At 12 years old, that’s kind of hard to come to grips with.”

And he told the Lansing State Journal, “That affected my life a lot — just going through it at 12 years old, I could have been dead the next day. It helped me again put things in perspective and mature and understand what was really important. That was God and His healing. It made me do the best I can for Christ.”

Langford will again be on the bench this Saturday — leading even though he can’t play — as the Spartans take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the second NCAA Tournament Final Four game (8:49 p.m. ET).

“Just because I’m not in the jersey doesn’t mean I’m not a part of the team,” Langford said. “I am a part of the team, so it’s really a blessing to be able to go further than I did my first two years here.”

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