“Believe:” An Evening with Eric LeGrand

by Lauren

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On January 11, 2013, Eric LeGrand came to RFH for a motivational speaking seminar. Students were encouraged to come see the former footballer speak about his past and the tackle that changed his life.

LeGrand was originally scheduled to speak at RFH in November, but the event was rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy. LeGrand spoke about his book, Believe: My Faith and the Tackle That Changed My Life, which is about his journey after his injury.

Nicole Forlenza, who was in attendance, said, “It was really inspirational. I didn’t know that BELIEVE, an inspirational word to LeGrand, was because it has his initials in it.”

It all started when Eric LeGrand began playing football for the Colonia High School Patriot where he played middle linebacker. Then with the recognition from scouts, became ranked among the best high school middle line backers in the nation. This led the four-year starter to be recruited by Rutgers University his senior year.

During his first season with the Scarlet Knights, his position was changed to defensive lineman. On September 11th, 2008 he made his debut against the North Carolina Tar Heels. From then on, he played in the last 12 games in his season. Then, in 2009, his position changed again as the backup defensive tackle to Charlie Noonan. That led him to play in all 13 games in the season.

In 2010, LeGrand’s life was changed forever. On October 16th, during a game against the West Point Black Knights, he collided with Malcolm Brown, Army’s kickoff returner. After the collision, LeGrand lay on the ground unable to move until he was carried off the field. As he was carried off, LeGrand tried to shoot thumbs up to his inspiration, Mike Utley, a paralytic who used to play for the Detroit Lions, but was unsuccessful. He was quoted later saying, “It felt like a thousand pounds.”

After being rushed to the hospital, LeGrand was diagnosed with paralysis from the neck down. LeGrand was told that due to his injury, he might need the help of a respirator for the rest of his life. During his recovery he worked on breathing so he could one day be without a ventilator or respirator.

“It’s not even whether you keep breathing; it’s whether you keep breathing how you want to breathe,” he said. It seemed that his unstoppable will brought him to victory; before Thanksgiving, he was able to breathe on his own.

On January 6, 2011, through Rutgers, LeGrand announced he had regained movement in his solders and feeling in his entire body. Then in the summer of 2011 LeGrand posted a picture of himself standing with the help of a metal frame on Twitter. The following school year, LeGrand resumed his classes via Skype and was also seen at spring football practices.

May 2, 2012, LeGrand symbolically signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This means he was on the team roster.  However, because of his injury, he wouldn’t actually play. LeGrand taking up an able bodied person’s place on the team, meaning that person could not play. This left LeGrand with a big decision. On July 26 he officially retired from football. This gave up his symbolic spot on the team, and left it to another able-bodied player.

However, retirement hasn’t slowed him down; LeGrand is still very involved in the sports world. He has just become one of Subway‘s athlete promoters, joining athletes like Michael Phelps and Apollo Ohno.

Eric LeGrand is now one of the biggest supporters of disability charities. He continues to inform and shock the world with his progress through Twitter. He also announced during his seminar at RFH that he is working on walking, and hopefully will be able to soon.

LeGrand continues to be an inspiration to all. Believing in yourself is the best thing you can do, and Eric LeGrand has achieved so much because he does.

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