For the last few years now, the ESPYs have been handing out the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance, in honor of the late Jimmy Valvano, the college basketball coach who himself was given the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the 1993 ESPYs, just weeks before he passed away from cancer. Jimmy V’s speech at that award show became legendary, so it was sort of a no-brainer that the powers that be at the ESPYs would choose to name a special award after him and present it to other inspirational athletes. This year, that honor went to Eric LeGrand.
What makes LeGrand so special? Here’s the deal – In October of 2010, when Eric was a Junior playing defensive tackle for Rutgers University, he sustained a serious spinal injury during a game and was paralyzed from the neck down. Obviously, an injury like that is often a life sentence, not to mention ending LeGrand’s dreams of playing in the NFL. But LeGrand refused to take “no” for an answer. Just as he did on the field, he put his nose to grind and vowed to make a full recovery. A year after his accident, he led his team onto the field and on to the cover of Sports Illustrated as the Best Moment of 2011.
The folks over in Tampa Bay certainly took notice of this. Here’s a guy who suffered one of the worst bodily injuries that any human can experience, but he is not letting that stop him. Despite the fact that Eric is still confined to a wheelchair, the Buccaneers went ahead and signed him to their team anyway. I’ll bet head coach Greg Schiano had a lot to do with it – he was LeGrand’s coach back at Rutgers. If anyone knows his work ethic and determination, it’s Schiano. Basically, Tampa Bay has told Eric that he has a job waiting for him WHEN he is (literally) back on his feet.
And if that wasn't enough, Subway has also signed Eric to a deal to appear in commercials for them (along with Giants DL Justin Tuck) to promote the chain's healthy, athlete-friendly food. Looks like Eric has a great support system around him!
Our guest correspondent, Takeo Spikes, had the pleasure of speaking with Eric just prior to the ESPYs ceremony last week, and I can’t help but be completely inspired by his high spirits and optimistic energy! We’re definitely rooting for you, Eric!