Last Thursday, Lawrenceville hosted former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, who is now an author, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker. Having become paralyzed while making a tackle in a 2010 college football game, LeGrand spoke to students and faculty on some of his important takeaways and learning moments from both his football career and his experience with the injury.
LeGrand joined the Rutgers team in 2008, where he began playing primarily on special positions. In 2009, his football coach, Greg Schiano, moved him to a new position as a defensive lineman. During the remainder of his football career, LeGrand played both on special positions and as a defensive lineman, scoring numerous tackles and sacks per game and proving himself to be a crucial aspect of the team.
In a 2010 game against the United States Military Academy, however, LeGrand suffered a severe spinal cord injury after unintentionally driving his head into the shoulder of another player. After he was sent to the hospital, doctors determined that he was paralyzed from the neck down, and he was soon transferred to a rehabilitation institution.
Reflecting on LeGrand’s speech, Abigail D’Souza ’24 identified one story that stood out was that of a friend Legrand made in the rehab center. After his friend passed away, LeGrand realized that said friend had “nobody, no family, no friends that came to visit,” which helped him become more appreciative of “how many people he has in his support system.” This story, along with other experiences LeGrand shared from his journey towards recovery, left an impression on D’Souza: “It has inspired me to be more grateful for the things I have and it made me want to make the most of my life,” she explained.
Even after suffering his spinal injury, LeGrand continued to attend classes at Rutgers virtually. Skyping into his lectures, LeGrand was determined to finish his education and accumulate the 120 credits he needed to graduate. “The fact that he was still able to graduate even though the cards weren’t in his favor shows his resilience,” D’Souza said, “that’s something I want to have.”
Aoife Kilfeather ’24 also noted a story LeGrand told about a young girl with cancer who passed away. “She passed even though she would have wanted to live another day,” Kilfeather recounted LeGrand saying in his speech. The girl’s death reminded him that he had a “privilege that she didn’t,” the privilege of living to see another day, motivating him to “make the most” of his life despite his paralysis, Kilfeather noted.
Reflecting on her takeaways from the speech, Kilfeather said, “It motivates me to hear that nothing can truly stop you…despite the challenges he has faced, [Legrand] is very successful and has left a great impact on those around him and more.”
In an effort to find new ways to inspire people and create a positive impact, LeGrand opened his own coffee business in 2022 called LeGrand Coffee House. He has been focusing a lot on the business and aims to reach larger and newer audiences with his brand and story.