A story of hope
Do you know:
- who Eric LeGrand is?
- where Rutgers University is?
- what you were doing October 16, 2010?
Let’s start at the beginning. Eric is a former football player for Rutgers University. Rutgers University is the state university of New Jersey in New Brunswick (exit 9 for those of you who understand NJ turnpike banter). On October 16, 2010, Eric LeGrand’s life changed forever as he broke his neck making a tackle on a kick-off return against Army. He is now paralyzed from the neck down.
But the story does not end there. Not even close.
I have no idea where I was on 10/16/2010 but my school, Georgia Tech, was playing Middle Tennessee for a noon kick-off and my daughter had a soccer game. I’m sure I was at both. Life as normal for me.
Later, I remember hearing about Eric’s tragic injury, seeing the video of the impact and the very still #52 on the field, and watching as the coach tried to give some kind of news to Eric’s frightened mom.
Football is a game of hard hits and injuries but rarely does it end up like this. This is everyone’s worst nightmare.
It has been nearly three years since the injury and I had not heard a whole lot about Eric since then. In researching this article, I did learn that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers signed Eric to their team as a symbolic gesture after Eric’s former coach became the coach at Tampa. He did not receive any money but they do sell his #52 jersey with proceeds benefiting spinal cord research.
Eric LeGrand has even written an inspirational book telling his story and talking about his faith.
Recently however, I had the TV on ESPN and they announced Rutgers University was going to retire the #52 jersey on September 14th at a ceremony at the stadium. Retiring a jersey is usually left for those amazing athletes who broke all the records at their school and led them to amazing victories. The jersey hangs somewhere in the stadium as a tribute, reminder and inspiration to all those who enter. Rutgers has never retired a single jersey. This time, the reminder won’t be that National Championship they won or of some player who could run faster than lightening. This time, the reminder will be about a horrible injury to a bright and positive young man who has single-handedly turned the story into an inspiration for Rutgers and all of the football community.
Eric works hard every day to walk again. He has hope that one day he will be able to do just that. The part of the story that gives me goose bumps every time is, when he does walk again, he will return to a Rutgers game, walk to the spot of the injury and walk off the field on his own. In that same ceremony, Rutgers will “un”-retire Eric LeGrand’s #52 jersey.
Beautiful! What an inspiration. I very much look forward to that day and watching that ceremony.