Faith. Determination. Inspiration. This is the foundation on which Eric LeGrand’s life is currently shaped upon. His career as a motivational speaker and sports analyst might strike others as overwhelming, but to LeGrand it’s all part of his diving purpose. During his tenure at Rutgers University in 2010, he enjoyed playing the game of football as a defensive tackle. But after a severe spinal injury (from an intense collision during a game at MetLife Stadium), which dramatically changed his life, LeGrand found himself wondering if he’d ever recapture that kind of success on the field.
Through triumph and tragedy, Eric’s road to recovery has been less than effortless. Having undergone a nine-hour emergency surgery procedure to stabilize his spine as well as a rigorous rehabilitation process, he has regained movement in his shoulders and sensation throughout his body. With that, he resumed his college classes via Skype and graduated from Rutgers University (2014) with a degree in Labor Relations. Not only did he graduate with honors, but he also gave a commemorative speech during the commencement ceremony. He has recently launched his sports broadcasting career as an analyst for Rutgers Football Radio Network.
With courage and grace, Eric has been honored with a plethora of awards and accolades throughout his recovery process, which include the “Unsung Hero Award” (2012) presented by the New Jersey Hall of Fame, the “Jimmy V Award” for Perseverance at the 20th Annual ESPYs (2012), and being elected as the “Most Influential Person in New Jersey Sports” presented by the Star Ledger (2012). On September 14, 2013, Rutgers hosted a ceremony, which retired the No. 52 jersey that belonged to Eric. Eric’s jersey was the first number to be retired by Rutgers in the history of their program.
In awe of the unwavering support, Eric’s story continues to touch numerous lives. Eric released his first book in the fall of 2012, titled BELIEVE: My Faith And The Tackle That Changed my Life (HarperCollins Publishers). He also signed an official NFL contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (by his former Rutgers coach, Greg Schiano).
Eric quickly became an advocate for individuals that are affected with spinal cord Injuries and disorders. Fueled with passion, LeGrand decided to form Team LeGrand of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Established in 2013, the proceeds generated from the charity go toward research to find a cure for paralysis and help to improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries.
Eric recently hosted the fourth annual “A Walk to Believe: One Step Closer With Team LeGrand” at Rutgers HighPoint Stadium. Key industry leaders such as Subway, AmeriHealth, Robert Wood Johnson and many more sponsored this event. Destroying the original goal of raising 52K, A Walk to Believe raised over 65K.
Having been afforded to see the world and taste the fullness of life, Eric has partnered and reveled in the company of notable celebrities such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé, LeBron James, Tim Howard, Jessica Alba, Rob Lowe and countless others. He also has a business partnership with the Jordan Brand, which he worked on a documentary “State of Play: Broken” which provides an up-close look his life that debuted on HBO in November 2014.
In October 2016, Eric took center stage and announced the debut of his new digital series titled “Mission Possible” which is a six-part compilation that profiles individuals living with disabilities and overcoming adversity. One of the episodes will focus on LeGrand’s prom date, Gianna Brunini, who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. “Stories like this give me hope, too,” LeGrand said. “I’m covering their stories and hearing stuff that I never knew before, just sitting down and asking them questions about their journey and their life. I look back on my situation and think, ‘Wow, I really don’t have it tough at all. Look at what this guy has been through.’”
In April 2017, Eric received the Warrior Award at the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony in Orlando, FL. Dana Warrior, who is the Ambassador of WWE, presented the award to LeGrand. Dana spoke about Eric’s ability to believe and how that belief has meant so much to so many and how he embodies the very spirit of The Ultimate Warrior. Most importantly, Dana spoke of how Eric helped form Team LeGrand with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. To view Eric receiving the award during the ceremony, click here.
As if all of his accomplishments weren’t enough, Eric raised $1 million in fundraising efforts for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation for spinal cord injury research and awareness during a charity event in Bedminster, NJ in November 2017. While having some private doubts, he still persevered to achieve the fundraising goal. LeGrand said in a recent interview “I’m not going to lie to you: There were many nights when I was younger and this first happened to me where I was like, ‘Will I still have the support?’ You’re 21 and you feel like you have your whole life ahead of you. Honestly, it’s overwhelming how many people are still there.” We can only hope that by doing our small part to help Team LeGrand, we will one day witness a goal of Eric’s-to walk again.