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Eric LeGrand: Paralyzed Football Star Faithful and Strong

CBN.com -When Rutgers defensive lineman Eric LeGrand made a tackle against an Army kick off returner, it was a moment that brought the Rutgers football world to a halt and put everything in perspective for him.

“That will stick in my head forever, you know. It’s the day that changed my life. Going down there making a tackle right on the field, and boom, next thing you know, you’re laying there, can’t move anything, can barely breathe, said Eric.”

Eric grew up just 20 minutes away from Rutgers in the New Jersey town of Avenel. He was a natural athlete. By the time he was a freshman in high school, colleges were already scouting him. In his junior year, though he had other offers, he accepted a scholarship to play for Rutgers.

“I was just like, you know, these people have been with me since my freshman year, when it was time for me to make my decision, in May of my junior year, and I’m like, you know, they really care about me, they care about my grades, making sure I’m going to be, you know, qualified through a clearinghouse to go here, you know, I’ve been up here thousands of times to come visit, it’s just a family atmosphere, 20 minutes away from my house, I’m like, what’s not to like, playing in division I college football, 20 minutes or so away from your house. Right here in your state of New Jersey. I’m like, this is just a perfect place for me, said Eric.”

By his sophomore season at Rutgers, he showed much potential. He played in all 13 games. He made 33 tackles and 2 sacks. His future looked bright. But his junior year during the game against Army, he was making a tackle on a kick off return and hit the runner at the wrong angle, which left him on his back. 

“I just started praying, like just something like, God, is this the end right now, is this going to be the end of me? Is this—is it my time to come up to you. I was like, God, please just let me catch a gasp of air, anything so I can feel better again through this situation, said Eric.”  

Shawn: As you’re leaving the field, what are you thinking?

 “I’m just thinking, you know, let me give a thumbs up to the crowd, let them know I’m okay, cause that’s what everyone always does, you know, when you get carted off, you give a thumbs up. But then I couldn’t, you know, and I felt like a thousand pounds was just laying on my hand and I couldn’t move it, said Eric.”

Eric had fractured his C3 and C4 Cervical Vertebrae caused be paralysis from the neck down. He was placed on a ventilator to help him breath.

“It was breathing for me and I didn’t like it because it was just so uncomfortable, couldn’t sleep at night, then it was making noises. So right away I just knew I wanted to get that thing out, said Eric.”

In order to do that, he asked God for help.

 “I believe, you know, through my faith, you know, just praying and everything, I willed it away from just getting this thing out, you know. Cause at the time my diaphragm was paralyzed, but I willed it away, like all right, this is enough of this things, I’m tired of it, you know. you know, God helped me out with that, and being able to breathe on my own again. He blessed me with that ability.”

That victory strengthened Eric’s faith. So when the doctors confirmed that that he may never walk again, he refused to accept that prognosis as final. 

“By then, I had already beat the ventilator, so I was just like well, you can tell me that, but that really has no effect on me now. Because I already came off the ventilator, which was 5 weeks after they told me I never would, said Eric.”

It’s been 2 years since his injury. Eric’s faith is stronger than ever.  News spread fast about his courage. In May he was symbolically signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by his former coach and Bucs current head coach Greg Schiano. He’s also had numerous speaking engagements and received honors including the unsung hero award by the new jersey hall of fame as well as the Jimmy V award at the ESPY’s. Now while doctors aren’t sure about Eric’s recovery, he believes that through his faith is the Lord he will some day walk again.

“Once I started breathing on my own again, I’m like, you know, the sky’s the limit from what’s going on now. Because everything was just coming back. Maybe a little bit slow, but it was—things were coming back, you know, I was starting to feel a little bit more, moving my neck, like you said, my shoulders more. So things were coming back, so that really kept me motivated. To see that stuff happening, I’m like, you know, they may have said this, but you never know what’s going to happen, they don’t know my will, my determination and my faith, you know. My belief that, you know, anything is possible and everything does happen for a reason, said Eric.”

Eric is a busy man these days.  When he’s not working on his degree at Rutgers, or announcing for the Rutgers home games, be assured he’s somewhere bringing inspiration to all those around him. He sharing the message that God is still in control and that all you have to do is believe.   

 “I can really look at it like wow, look at what I’ve been able to do, I’ve done more in these two years than I’ve done in my entire life playing the game of football. I always say you believe in yourself, you believe in the man above, anything is truly possible in this world. And I don’t know when, but he’s going to get me up out of this chair and really show that miracles do happen through him, said Eric.”

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