Defying odds and making a difference — 10 years since LeGrand injury
WOODBRIDGE — Eric LeGrand's family was told 10 years ago, when he suffered a severe spinal injury while playing football for Rutgers University, that he likely wouldn't be able to breathe on his own, eat solid foods or move his shoulders.
He's been able to accomplish all of that, plus move his back on his own from time to time. And the rehabilitation continues daily.
"I'm still doing therapy at home during COVID-19, three times a week — to keep my body strong and in shape, so when that cure does come one day, I'll be primed and ready to go," LeGrand said during a phone conversation with New Jersey 101.5.
The 30-year-old said it's "mind boggling" that his injury, suffered during a tackle on a special teams play in a game against Army at MetLife Stadium, will be a decade old on Oct. 16. After colliding with another player, LeGrand was on the ground for several minutes. He was carted off the field, only able to move his head.
"It's so fresh in my mind still," LeGrand said.
In August, it was announced that LeGrand would be included in Rutgers' 2020 Hall of Fame class for athletics.
The Avenel resident lives with his mother and dog. He uses a power wheelchair to get around.
The aforementioned "cure" he's hoping for is a cure for paralysis. Team LeGrand, a charity arm of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, works to get research closer to that medical breakthrough and works to improve the quality of life of other individuals with spinal cord injuries.
LeGrand is also co-owner of New Jersey-based Forbeto, a platform that aims to benefit local businesses and charities.
LeGrand said Rutgers remains "like family." Following his injury, LeGrand continued his education and earned a Rutgers degree in labor relations.
Leading up to the 10th anniversary of the fateful hit, LeGrand has partnered with Rutgers to sell "10 years of believing" T-shirts, with part of the proceeds going to Team LeGrand. Those who purchase the shirt are encouraged to wear it on Friday.
"We're not going to look at it as a sad day. We're going to say it's 10 years of believing, 10 years of fighting paralysis," LeGrand said.