Sports heroes are not what they were a generation ago. Still, every once in a while, you hear a story that sets an example for us all, where you think, “Now that’s someone a kid can really look up to.” Such is the case with Eric LeGrand.
Eric has been in the news recently due to his retirement from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ever since he was a boy, his dream was to play pro football. In 2009 and 2010, he was well on his way, having become an invaluable member of the Rutgers University football team. On October 16, 2010, that all came to an end during a game against Army at Giants Stadium. He went to make a tackle and collided with the Army returner, Malcolm Brown, fracturing his c-3 and c-4 vertebrae.
The doctors told LeGrand that not only was he paralyzed from the neck down, never to walk again, but he’d never even come off the ventilator! Intent on proving the doctors wrong, he was breathing again on his own five weeks later, and a year later, he was able to stand for 45 minutes. Today, he puts himself through four hours of therapy daily and can rotate on his hands back and forth—unprecedented progress by all accounts.
On May 2, 2012 the Buccaneers signed LeGrand to a free-agent contract as a symbolic gesture at the urging of head coach Greg Schiano, who coached LeGrand at Rutgers. LeGrand accepted, enthusing “Dreams do come true if you really believe.” When he ceremonially retired on July 26 he said, “Making it to the NFL was my dream. But now I want to see my team as strong as possible at the start of Training Camp. I don’t want to take up that spot for someone who can help the team out.”
LeGrand has set an inspiring and selfless example for kids and grownups alike, demonstrating the strength of the human spirit and what you can accomplish if you just believe in yourself—personally and professionally. “I believe I will walk again,” says LeGrand. “I do. When that happens, I already know what I’m going to do. I’ll go to Giants Stadium and find the exact spot in the field where I went down. I’ll lie there for a second. And then I’ll get up on my own power and walk away.”
Now that’s inspiring. What about you? What do you find inspiring? I’d love to hear your stories.