Former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down after a spinal cord injury during a 2010 football game. I want to share with you his inspiring story of recovery. Paralysis is a condition that affects 5.6 million people, many of whom are able to achieve fulfilling and active lives. Eric has recently finished his college degree in labor studies, a huge milestone in his recovery.
At the time of his injury, LeGrand was 60 credits short of graduation. He began attending one class at a time via Skype as soon as he was able, leading to his eventual completion, after six years, of all necessary credits in order to graduate. Working around his paralysis, LeGrand also used a stylus on a tablet with his mouth as well as the iOS voice recognition app Siri to transfer his thoughts into the written word for class assignments.
“It feels good,” said LeGrand after turning in his last paper. “It shows that anything is truly possible.” He plans to be present for graduation ceremonies in May with the rest of the class of 2014.
Since the fateful game, LeGrand has been attending rehabilitation therapy for several hours each weekday, unless he has a speaking engagement – he has been making regular appearances as a motivational speaker since he was injured. His course of therapy includes treadmill sessions at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, the same center where Christopher Reeve received treatment, and another local New Jersey rehab facility.
Initially told he would be a quadriplegic and remain on a ventilator, LeGrand breathes on his own and, while he depends on a motorized wheelchair, is able to stand upright with the aid of a metal frame. In another feat, LeGrand was even drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his former Rutgers Scarlet Knights coach, Greg Schiano, in April of 2012.
LeGrand has certainly stayed busy, working with sports marketing company IMG to break into sports broadcasting as well as a book deal with HarperCollins for his memoir, Believe: My Faith and the Tackle That Changed My Life. He currently co-hosts the weekly Rutgers football radio show alongside commentator Chris Carlin. Until graduation, he was unable to receive compensation for his work, but now that he has completed his coursework, there are possibilities to pursue a career with SportsNet New York, the tri-state area’s broadcast home for Big East sports.
With his treatment at the Kessler Institute, he entered the Reeve Foundation’s NeuroRecovery Network, a cooperative network of cutting-edge rehab centers designed to promote functional recovery and improve the life and health of people living with paralysis. As LeGrand made progress in his recovery, together with the Reeve Foundation, he created Team LeGrand, a charity established in 2013 whose proceeds go toward research to find a cure for the over 5.6 million people who suffer from paralysis and helping improve the quality of life for the nearly 1.3 million with spinal cord injuries.
I am truly inspired by the story of Eric LeGrand and hope that he makes steady advances in his recovery. With his attitude, resolve, and determination, as well as the support he has from the Reeve Foundation, I believe his future looks bright.