January 22, 2019 | ° F

Former Rutgers football player raises more than $750K for spinal cord research

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

Eric LeGrand created the organization 'Team LeGrand' after an incident on the field left him paralyzed. The non-profit aims to raise more than $1 million towards researching spinal cord injuries and helping with rehabilitation.

Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand now serves as a source of widespread inspiration for those suffering from paralysis through his involvement in "Team LeGrand of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation," an organization that gives rehabilitation and recovery services for those with paralysis. 

LeGrand began his college football career in 2008 as a defensive tackle under then-head football coach Greg Schiano. By his sophomore year, LeGrand was leading the team with 13 tackles on kickoffs, according to the Scarlet Knights' website. 

But on Oct. 16, 2010, during his junior season, LeGrand was injured during the fourth quarter in a game against Army Black Knights. 

LeGrand suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury and was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with paralysis. He fractured the C-3 and the C-4 vertebrae, leaving him unable to move his body from the neck down, according to NJ Advance Media.  

LeGrand was sent to the Kessler Rehabilitation Center two weeks later, and by January 2011, he regained feeling in his body and was able to move his shoulders, according to the Team LeGrand website.

Despite his injuries, LeGrand said he never lost hope, and that his support system helped him through his hardships.

"Just always remember no matter how bad you think you got it, there's always someone out there who (has) got it worse than you do," he said. "So always remember to (be) grateful for every day that you got.”

LeGrand joined the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation in 2011, a charity that specializes in funding epidural stimulation and rehabilitation for those who have paralysis, according to the site. It was here that LeGrand was able to share his story. 

Since then, LeGrand has received multiple awards and honors for his charitable efforts.

In 2012, he was presented the Unsung Hero Award in the New Jersey Hall of Fame, the Jimmy V Award and was named Most Influential Person in NJ Sports by The Star-Ledger. 

He was then given the final roster spot on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by Shiano, his former coach. His book, "Believe: My Faith and the Tackle That Changed My Life," was published in 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers, according to NJ Advance Media.

In 2013, "Team LeGrand" joined the Reeve Foundation. The proceeds go to finding a cure and helping to improve the life of people with spinal cord injuries.

So far, the charity has collected around $750,000 and LeGrand said he is confident that they will hit their goal of $1 million soon.

Recently, the foundation teamed up with Athletes Brand, an organization that creates clothing to support athletes and their causes. They designed a promotional shirt for the charity that depicts the word "BELIEVE" in the shape of a football, with "EL" highlighted in red for LeGrand’s initials, according to the organization's website. 

Athletes Brand initially set their goal for $2,000 from shirt sales to donate to "Team LeGrand." After two weeks on the market, their site wrote they have already reached that goal.

The way LeGrand carries himself makes him an inspirational figure since his injury, said Brad Butcher, the athlete account manager for Athletes Brand.

"So with that, we thought he would be a perfect person to jump on board and use our ‘shirt for a cause’ to help benefit his cause," Butcher said.

LeGrand continues to have a positive outlook on life, appreciate his loved ones and work to motivate others who are struggling, he said. 

“You shouldn't focus on the things that you don't have," LeGrand said. "Instead look at the thing that you do have, and be fortunate that you have these things in life, and hold on tight to them, because those are the things that are gonna get you through the worst of times." 

Jacob Turchi is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

Jacob Turchi

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