Jets receiver's heartwarming bond with brother transcends words

Jamison Crowder always greets his brother Jamaris with a hug and a kiss on the forehead. The kiss brings a smile to Jamaris’ face, the exchange a clear and simple sign of the bond the two brothers share.

It is a bond that does not need words to explain.

The two have never been able to have a conversation. Jamaris, who is non-verbal, has Down syndrome and is on the autism spectrum. Nine years younger than Jamison, the wide receiver the Jets signed in March to be part of their revamped offense, Jamaris communicates in different ways with his big brother, and Jamison draws strength from him.

“He just inspires me,” Jamison said recently during a break at Jets training camp. “I get joy out of how happy he is to come and watch me play. He keeps me going. When I’m out there on the field, I know he’s happy to see me.”

Jamaris is 16 and a junior at a school for children with special needs in North Carolina. Jamison just turned 26 and is entering his fifth year in the NFL, his first in New York with the Jets. It would be easy for there to be a separation between the two brothers, but Jamison won’t allow it. He speaks with his family nearly every day using FaceTime, and he makes sure he and Jamaris see each other and Jamaris can hear his voice.

“That’s the way Jamison has always been,” Crowder’s mother, Brenda, said. “I thank God for Jamison being an older brother for him. He wants to do whatever he can to give Jamaris a good life and not feel like he is unable or he has this disability and he’s not going to be able to do this or do that.”

Brenda and her husband James found out Jamaris would have a birth defect during an ultrasound early in her pregnancy. They were not sure of the severity until Jamaris was born.

Jamison was just 9 years old at the time. His parents did their best to explain Down syndrome but did not want to dampen his enthusiasm about being a big brother. The Crowders said they relied on their deep faith and have always focused on the positive and what Jamaris can do rather than the negatives.

“I thank God for Jamison being an older brother for him.”

After Jamaris was born on Dec. 7, 2002, the two brothers instantly shared a deep bond.

“When the two of them would interact, you would see Jamaris and he would get excited and kind of bubbly as he got a little older,” Brenda said. “Even as a baby, Jamison could get him to laugh and do things that sometimes his dad and I couldn’t do. Jamaris had that bond then with his brother. They still have that bond now even though Jamison is away more often. Jamaris looks forward the times we’re going to visit Jamison. You can tell he gets excited.”

As Jamison excelled on the football field and the basketball court, Jamaris was always there to support him. The Crowders say Jamaris’ excitement is clear when he is watching his big brother play.

“He loves Jamison,” Brenda said. “He loves his brother. He’s always excited when Jamison is here or we’re telling him we’re going to see Jamison.”

Brenda said even as Jamison became a teenager, he treated Jamaris as an equal.

“That’s the thing we admire about Jamison,” Brenda said. “Even as a 9-year-old, a 10-year, an 11-year-old, going into those teenage years, Jamison never focused on [the negative]. He just knew that this was my little brother and I’m going to challenge him to do things. Even with Jamison’s friends when they came around, it was always about Jamaris and I think they fed off the energy that Jamison was putting off. He would always want to involve Jamaris, even if his friends were here.”

Even though Jamaris could not speak, his family learned to communicate with him. Jamaris would bring them a cup when he was thirsty or let them know if he was hungry. He would bring a basketball to Jamison so the two could play with it.

For Jamison, he learned life lessons from his younger brother.

“Just having in my family helps in different ways,” Jamison said. “One of the ways it helps me is with patience, just being really patient. Jamaris, when he’s trying to do something, he kind of moves at his own pace. You can’t really rush him. You have to let him take his time. That’s one of the things that I think has helped me and my family. Whatever is going on, we have patience and let him do his thing.”
When Jamison is asked about Jamaris, he smiles wide.

“He is real chill, sweet, genuine,” he said when describing his little brother.

This spring, Jamison organized a camp along with the National Down Syndrome Society for kids with Down syndrome and other disabilities at Crowder’s alma mater, Duke University. Crowder said he plans on holding the camp annually and is committed to helping families who have dealt with the challenges that his family has.

“He inspires me to come out and just grind each day, don’t take anything for granted,” Jamison said.

“He inspires me to come out and just grind each day, don’t take anything for granted”

Jamaris attended Jamison’s games through high school and college at Duke and then with the Redskins for the past four years. Crowder’s move to the Jets has presented a bit of a challenge for the family.

Jamaris has never been on a plane and the car ride to New Jersey is a little too long for everyone.

Brenda said they will figure out how to get to Jamison’s games with the Jets. It means a lot to Jamison’s parents and Jamaris to watch him play.

“He likes the excitement,” Brenda said. “He knows that Jamison is participating. We know that he knows that his brother is participating. We’re constantly talking to him, ‘There’s your brother doing this. Jamison is doing that.’ ”

The Crowders hope to be at the Jets’ opener next month against the Bills. Jamison will find his brother before the game and give him a hug and a kiss on the forehead, like always.

“I think he’s definitely been a gift to my family and to me,” Jamison said. “We love him.”

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