Faced with a lifetime as a quadriplegic former Rutgers and current Buccaneers defensive linemen Eric LeGrand refused to accept his fate, and now can stand with the aid of a brace. Wednesday night LeGrand will receive the Jimmy V Perseverance Award, and also it was announced he has signed on to be the new face of Subway.
The Eric LeGrand story keeps getting better. What was first thought to be a hopeless situation back on that Saturday afternoon in 2010 when the Rutgers defensive linemen lay motionless on the cold turf paralyzed, now continues to inspire, almost two years later.
Tampa Bay’s LeGrand was recently named the winner of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award, and will be honored during Wednesday night's broadcast of ESPN’s annual ESPY awards show.
LeGrand talked to the Associated Press about what the award will mean.
"I can relate to that because I am never giving up in my situation," LeGrand said. "I am never giving up in my situation. I know I will fight through it. Now getting this, this is a dream come true, especially on the 20th anniversary of the ESPYS. I was even thinking about it last year, thinking that could be me."
LeGrand, who played for Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano while at Rutgers, suffered a spinal cord injury trying to make a tackle on a kickoff in 2010. LeGrand was told by doctors shortly after the incident that he would be a quadriplegic and remain on a ventilator. Unwilling to accept the fate handed to him by the medical community, LeGrand now breathes on his own and can stand upright with the help of a metal frame.
On May 2, just days after what would have been LeGrand’s college draft was completed, the Buccaneers added him to their 90-man roster. At a press conference shortly thereafter, LeGrand spoke about his situation and his future.
“I always believe in Coach Schiano’s saying, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way.’ If you believe in yourself and believe in the man above anything is truly possible,” LeGrand said. “That’s what I do every single day in my life. I feel so fortunate to have you guys, who will share my story to millions of people and support me throughout this whole situation because there are people out there that don’t have the support that I have and they need it. I try to help them get through tough times. Talking to everybody, just having a good time, sprucing everybody up, motivating each other and challenging each other to get better every single day. That’s just how I continue to live my life, and I’m out there trying to inspire a whole world of people, and change the world day by day.”
In addition to the announcement of being the recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award, it was also reported that LeGrand had signed an endorsement deal with Subway to appear in television commercials with New York Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck, promoting the restaurant chain. The commercials were filmed recently and will air this fall.
“Eric's training is intense and his goal of walking again is clearly the most important goal," Subway chief marketing officer Tony Pace said. "We believe his inspirational story resonates with our fans. All of our athletes who know Eric are already rooting for him. Like us, they love his character, determination and positive outlook."
LeGrand joins Tuck, Michael Phelps, Apolo Ohno, Blake Griffin and Robert Griffin III as current athletes hired to endorse Subway.
"I am grateful for the opportunities," LeGrand said. "I gain additional inspiration and motivation from that as I train to achieve my next goal."
The ESPY's will be televised Wednesday, July 11, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
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