Rutgers Football: Eric LeGrand continues to inspire 10 years after injury

Ten years ago on Oct. 16, 2010, Rutgers football was changed forever, and a program hero was developed out of a tragedy.

Heartbreak has always been associated with Rutgers football. It is not always the most reliable team, and fans have become accustomed to disappointing losses. It’s just part of the bargain of being a Scarlet Knights fan. However, these heartbreaks were the result of, simply, the score of the game. Eventually, the Rutgers football program would experience a different, more real, type of heartbreak. On that day in 2010, Rutgers was playing Army at MetLife Stadium, and in the fourth quarter at the 25-yard line Eric LeGrand received a tackle that would take away his ability to move from the neck down.

Since that day, LeGrand has been paralyzed. His head was down while he was running, and the top of it went straight into the ball carrier’s shoulder. After laying completely still on the ground for minutes, LeGrand was carried off the field.

LeGrand’s endless hope

In the 10 years since then, LeGrand has become the pinnacle of hope for sports fans. With his injury came the realization that sports are about much more than winning a game, and what it means to be a true athlete. Following his injury, LeGrand never had one moment of negativity. In fact, he finished his studies, began sports broadcasting and has become an inspirational speaker. He’s a person who has not lost his humor or charm despite going through a horrific trauma that he has to work to heal from every day.

LeGrand has shared these moments with Rutgers fans and has become loved by everyone in the program. One of the most inspiring examples of positivity and hope came early in LeGrand’s recovery process. In 2011, on a snowing October day, the stadium was packed for a home game against West Virginia because LeGrand was to lead the Scarlet Knights out of the tunnel. A photo of the 21-year-old who had lost his ability to walk a year earlier smiling in his wheelchair through the snow became the Sports Illustrated Moment of the Year for 2011.

LeGrand embodies what it means to be an athlete

LeGrand’s now iconic number, 52, is the only retired Rutgers jersey. Now a household name for sports fans, he has redefined what it means to keep hope and has become a role model for young athletes. He shows that athleticism is having a love for your sport, and not letting anything get in the way of that. He is tirelessly helping the search for the cure to paralysis, and the charity he launched, Team LeGrand, has raised almost $2 million for research. That’s an athlete.

Despite the fact that he can no longer actually play his sport, LeGrand is the best example of a true athlete. He embodies the most incredible amount of positivity and hope that can be seen in any one person, and he has brought the Rutgers community together by giving perspective to what we believed sports were all about.

Photo by Marielle Sumergido | The Daily Targum