DALLAS - Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand has been named the winner of the 2010 Discover Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. LeGrand, a junior from Avenel, N.J., was paralyzed from the neck down Oct. 16, while making a tackle against Army. The award will be presented Jan. 3 at the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla.
“This is a tremendous honor for Eric to receive the Discover Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “Eric has displayed so much courage and determination throughout his injury and rehabilitation. He has given everyone associated with our football family at Rutgers the strength to persevere through life’s challenges.”
The most recent news is encouraging. LeGrand is continuing his rehabilitation at Kessler Institute in West Orange, N.J. Last month, he was taken off a ventilator and is able to breathe on his own. His injury was recently reclassified from a complete spinal cord injury to an incomplete spinal cord injury.
LeGrand, a backup defensive tackle, suffered the injury while making a tackle on a kickoff during the fourth quarter. He collided with Army’s Malcolm Brown, then lay motionless on the field for several minutes. He underwent emergency surgery to stabilize his spine. Damage was to the C-3 and C-4 level of the vertebrae.
“As I talked to our team, we are going to believe that Eric is going to walk onto that field again,” Schiano said shortly after the injury.
The first few days after the injury, more than 18,000 e-mails to LeGrand were sent through the school’s website, ScarletKnights.com.
“We know it’s going to be a long road,” Schiano said a few days after the injury. “It’s going to be one step at a time and we’re going to do this as a family, the LeGrand family, the Rutgers football family. That’s the way we are going to approach it.”
The “Eric LeGrand Believe Fund” has been set up to help finance his treatment. For information, visit www.scarletknights.com/believe.
“We were deeply touched as a family to hear the news of Eric winning the Discover Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award,” the LeGrand family said in a statement. “Thank you to everyone at the Football Writers Association of America for selecting Eric. He continues every day to make positive steps and has attacked his rehabilitation with the same desire and passion as he did on the football field. We continue to ask everyone to keep Eric in your thoughts and prayers.”
The Courage Award was created by ESPN The Magazine's senior writer Gene Wojciechowski, also a FWAA member. A select group of writers from the FWAA vote on the winner each year. The requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship.
Previous winners of the FWAA's Courage Award are the University of Connecticut football team (2009), Tulsa’s Wilson Holloway (2008), Navy’s Zerbin Singleton (2007), Clemson's Ray Ray McElrathbey (2006), the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis' Haracio Colen (2004), San Jose State's Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo's William Bratton (2002).