Eric LeGrand celebrates new book release
Former Scarlet Knight shares story of his injury, recovery
Eric LeGrand, former defensive tackle for the Scarlet Knights, was paralyzed from the neck down while playing in October 2010. But the School of Arts and Sciences senior has found a new passion — telling the world his inspirational story.
LeGrand spoke to a crowd of 275 people at the Visitor Center yesterday on Busch campus to promote the release of his two books, “Believe: My Faith and the Tackle That Changed My Life,” and “Believe: The Victorious Story of Eric LeGrand.”
“Football was my whole life,” said LeGrand, who had played the sport since he was five. “But since I got hurt, I realized that there’s so much opportunity in the world. Don’t worry about the person next to you — just be the person you can be.”
When LeGrand became paralyzed, many thought he would never recover, but the game did not end for him. After regaining some movement and sensation throughout his body, he returned to the field in a wheelchair the very next year — a moment so miraculous it was chosen to be the best of 2011 by Sports Illustrated readers.
His mother, Karen LeGrand, said it was his positivity that pushed him through the paralysis.
“To be honest with you, Eric is more of my support system,” she said. “He is so positive and so determined that he doesn’t need a lot of support from me. It’s just the way he’s always been.”
His books describe the difficult day-to-day struggles of his injury — from getting out of bed to spending 4 hours a day in therapy, Eric LeGrand said.
“I realized I have a story to tell with honest detail that a lot of people don’t know,” he said. “I put all this stuff into the book because I really want to put that out there.”
Alex Kay is also familiar with this reality. Because of her cerebral palsy, the 16-year-old high school student has been confined to a wheelchair since birth. Kay said she came all the way from Brick to see Eric LeGrand, her hero.
“He inspired me,” said Kay, who is now able to use a walker in school after years of therapy. “I’ve been through situations like him. He inspired me to walk more and to keep pushing.”
The LeGrand family is teaming up with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to provide emotional support for sufferers of spinal injury and to raise money for research, Karen LeGrand said.
“Having a family means the world,” she said. “That’s what got him through the beginning stages. A lot of patients don’t have that support, and they don’t do as well.”
The Star-Ledger named him the most influential person in New Jersey sports in August. He now travels the world, serving as an inspiration to others, said Tim Pernetti, athletics director.
“Eric hasn’t changed, but what he’s done for people since he’s been hurt is the greatest thing about him,” Pernetti said. “I know just by being around him that he’s not going to stop.”
“Believe: The Victorious Story of Eric LeGrand” is a book designed for younger children to boost their confidence and determination at an early age, LeGrand said.
“They’re easily influenced, so they should be influenced in the right direction,” he said. “They are the future of the world. I want them to be instructed at a young age to not think about being better than someone else.”
Alisha Carti, a mother of three from Franklin Lakes, said she brought her 12-year-old son Cameron to show him he can overcome his leg injury. McKenna, her 4-year-old daughter, even begged to come along after hearing him speak at her elementary school.
“It was a great book,” said Cameron Carti, who suffers from the effects of reconstructive ligament surgery.
Nikita Patel, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, believes the memoir’s real-life scenarios will prove to be powerful to children.
“It will help because a lot of storybooks are based on fictional things,” she said. “His story is typed in a way that kids will understand. It’s good to have good books like this early on so they’ll learn while they’re young.”