'Keep praying': Three months after breaking neck, Keyport football player back in school

One recent morning, as Keyport schools superintendent Lisa Savoia arrived at work, she happened across a couple of district custodians working on a little project.

“It was 6:30 a.m., and I said, ‘What are you doing?’” Savoia recalled.

They said, "We’re fixing a chair for Logan.”

In mid-January, three months after suffering a spinal-cord injury while playing on Keyport High School’s football team, Logan Blanks returned to school under his own power.

“They built a special chair so he would have support,” said Donnie Blanks, Logan’s father. “Everybody went over and beyond.”

Logan, who is a senior, is taking advanced placement biology in person each morning. The rest of his classes are virtual for now. He’s also undergoing physical therapy and occupational therapy three times per week, still building up strength and endurance.

“He’s been doing very well, so we decided to try to get him back in school,” Donnie Blanks said. “He’s able to do one period.”

His return has lifted the spirits of everyone in the school community.

“I see how excited he is to be around his teammates and to be back in school,” said Jason Glezman, Keyport High’s football coach and a social studies teacher at the school. “When the guys see him, they have to restrain themselves because they want to hug him. Logan has to be careful with the way he moves, how quickly he moves, how much contact he has.

“But if you saw him, and if nobody told you how he was injured, you probably wouldn’t know.”

Helping one of their own: Keyport community comes together in support of Logan Blanks

Keyport players carry a banner to honor injured teammate Logan Blanks. October 15, 2022.
Keyport players carry a banner to honor injured teammate Logan Blanks. October 15, 2022.

During an Oct. 8 game against Lakewood, Logan was playing linebacker when he sustained a fracture dislocation at vertebrae C4-C5 and a disc rupture at C5-C6. He underwent two successful surgeries at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune and in-patient rehabilitation at Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

'We make our own miracles': How 'spot-on' response saved Keyport football player

An honors student, Logan is applying to colleges now.

“We want to keep him local of course,” Donnie Blanks said. “He’s going to start visiting a few. That’s why we wanted to get him back into school as soon as possible.”

Lisa Wallin, who teaches Logan’s advanced placement biology course and is involved in his home instruction, has been instrumental in his transition.

“She’s a phenomenal teacher and she’s played a huge role in the support process,” Glezman said. “She’s a big part of that continual theme of people stepping up and wanting to help.”

Logan Blanks in his Keyport football portrait from October.
Logan Blanks in his Keyport football portrait from October.

Logan's parents also credit his guidance counselor, Stacey Oxley, for managing the logistics involved in his schooling.

Glezman said the community response to Logan’s recovery has reinforced a valuable lesson.

“In life you want to develop relationships,” he said. "(In football) we talk about winning and leaving your mark with wins and championships. But relationships, that’s what life is about. We’re all going to have those moments in our lives when the relationships we build are going to help us up when we need it.”

There’s also a message the Blanks family wants to share about spinal-cord injuries and the importance of public support.

“We’ve encountered so many young people who are going through it and continue fighting a tough battle,” Donnie Blanks said. “Logan was very fortunate with how things lined up for him. We want people to keep praying — don’t forget about the other young people who are going through this.”

He added, “There’s a lot of attention (on spinal-cord injuries) at the beginning. All of them will continue to deal with it to some degree for the rest of their lives. When all the attention dies down, it’s still every day. Keep all the people who are fighting in your prayers.”

Jerry Carino is community columnist for the Asbury Park Press, focusing on the Jersey Shore’s interesting people, inspiring stories and pressing issues. Contact him at jcarino@gannettnj.com.

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Keyport NJ football player back in school 3 months after breaking neck