LEGRAND REFLECTS ON JOURNEY FROM INJURY

Eric LeGrand with a fan after his speech at R-FH Friday night. (Photo by Rebecca Desfosse. Click to enlarge)

By REBECCA DESFOSSE

The newest “honorary members” of the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High community are a football player who suffered a spinal-cord injured two years ago and his mom.

Radiating positive energy from his wheelchair, former Rutgers defensive end Eric LeGrand addressed a packed-to-capacity auditorium at R-FH Friday night, recounting his journey from the injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down.

During the fourth quarter of a football game against Army in October 2010, LeGrand, a junior from Woodbridge, suffered a catastrophic spinal-cord injury as a result of a head-first tackle. Unable to breathe, LeGrand said he saw his life flash before his eyes. “If God determined it was my time, I was willing to accept that,” he said.

Instead, the injury left him paralyzed from the neck down, confined to a wheelchair. But LeGrand said he is resolved to walk again.

His journey so far hasn’t been easy – he’s had to relearn how to do everything from breathing to eating. It’s a slow process that requires daily struggles and endless determination, something LeGrand doesn’t lack. He relates his challenge to chopping down a tree: “You need to focus on the task at hand and just keep chopping until the tree falls down,” he said.

During a Q&A with R-FH board member James Wassel asked LeGrand why he dedicated his book to his mom, Karen. LeGrand answered that he’s “extremely thankful” to his mother, who gave up working to care of her son after his accident.

Wassel asked LeGrand if he was angry about what happened to him. LeGrand answered that no, he has “nothing to complain about” and that he believes his accident happened for a reason. He’s also thankful for everyone who has reached out to him in support and prayer, and everyone whose lives he has been able to touch as a result of his accident.

“There’s no time for a negative attitude,” he said, adding he just keeps on pushing forward – inspiring and motivating anyone who has ever faced obstacles in their life.

When LeGrand’s mother joined him onstage, Wassel said, “I don’t know if I have any authority to do this, but you and you mom are now honorary members of the Rumson-Fair Haven High School.” The audience exploded with applause.

Wanting nothing more than to inspire people, LeGrand said, he co-wrote, with Mike Yorkey, a memoir about his journey called “Believe.” LeGrand even hinted at the possibility of a movie in the near future.  Meanwhile, he’s continuing his college education and pursuing a career in sports broadcasting.

Sharon Everett of River Road Books said the store sold more than 100 copies of the book at the event.