A former defensive tackle for Rutgers University who is paralyzed from the neck down will watch five of his former teammates play in the Super Bowl.
Eric LeGrand, 26, was brutally hit during a game against Army in 2010. The star player broke two of his vertebrae while making a tackle on a kick off.
Though he had dreamed about playing in the Super Bowl since he was 10 years old, LeGrand is happy for his five former teammates who will play on Sunday.
‘Only thing I’m jealous about is not getting a ring,’ LeGrand joked. ‘That’s the coolest part. I love watching them play, you know?’
‘Doing their thing, that’s all cool. I’d never get jealous over that. But the ring, I would love to have one of those.’
LeGrand recalled the game that changed his life on October 16, 2010.
He told CBS when medics rushed to him on the field: ‘I was just shaking my head, trying to get up. And all of a sudden the trainers come running over to me and they’re like , “Is it your head or your neck?’ And I’m like, ‘I can’t breathe,”‘
‘That’s all I can get out. And they’re like, “Can you feel this? Can you feel that?” I’m just like, “I can’t breathe.” That’s all I could pretty much say at the time.’
The damage was so severe doctors told him he would never breathe, eat or walk on his own again. They gave him a zero to five percent chance or regaining neurologic function.
The 20-year-old thought thought the spinal injury meant his life was over.
But LeGrand found a new purpose in life and now uses his story to inspire others. Now, he raises money for the Christopher Reeves Foundation to help find a cure for paralysis. Since 2013, he has raised $750,000.
He believes he will walk one day and is in therapy twice a week.
He told the station: ‘I’m only 26 years old and I still feel like I have a whole life to live and experience a whole bunch of things. So, I don’t let this wheelchair hold me back.’
He sells t-shirts that spell out ‘bELieve’ in the shape of a football for the foundation. LeGrand says he got the inspiration for the shirt from a sign above the door in his old high school locker room.
His former teammate, Falcons player Mohamed Sanu, sported the shirt on Instagram to show support.
The tragedy didn’t stop LeGrand from going back to college either. While recovering, he went to class via Skype and graduated from Rutgers in 2014.
Now, he tours the country as a motivational speaker and wrote the book ‘BELIEVE: My Faith And The Tackle That Changed My Life.’
He uses a motorized wheelchair to move around and uses a stylus pen and Siri to write.
Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu will play in the Super Bowl. Sanu and LeGrand caught up in Houston before the game and have been close since the accident.
Sanu said: ‘I mean, we love that guy. He’s just one of the coolest, funniest, warm-hearted guys you’ll ever be around.’
On the Patriots: Duron Harmon, Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Jonathan Freeny are representing Rutgers. Freeny is on injured reserve for Sunday’s game.
Rutgers is the most represented school in Sunday’s Super Bowl LI.
LeGrand also has an inspirational web series that showcases the obstacles people with disabilities can overcome.