By NIMISHA KUMAR ‘22
On Wednesday, January 15, renowned public speaker Eric LeGrand visited Edison High to address the sophomore class. The assembly started with a brief video of LeGrand’s story, narrating the start of his football career at Colonia High School where he had the ritual of tapping his initials on the word “BELIEVE” that hung above the doorway. Little did he know that this word would soon become his life motto. From Avenell, New Jersey, the second team all-state linebacker chose to play for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. He was a leading player for their kickoff team starting his freshman year. Then in his junior year in 2010, during a momentous game against Army at MetLife Stadium, LeGrand’s life was forever changed. The audience collectively gasped during the clip of the tackle that left him paralyzed below the neck.
But LeGrand is far more than the story of a football player who suffered a tragedy. In his journey, he has accumulated invaluable life lessons that he shares with the world to let others know that hope can emerge from darkness. Despite being told that he would never be able to breathe on his own, LeGrand has managed to regain movement in his shoulders. His path in recovery is defying the odds and statistics doctors have told him. He firmly believes that no one should let anybody tell you what you can and cannot do in life. From this, LeGrand has had the experience and platform to prove that anything is truly possible in this world.
He shared his belief that everyone should be appreciative of the things they do have, and not complain about what they do not. He admitted that it is human nature to complain and desire more in life, but if you really want something then you should go after it with full force. LeGrand suggested that everyone should be kind to one another because it is impossible to know the kind of situation someone has when they go home. He told the audience that putting people down for a quick laugh is not worth the pain.
LeGrand said that he can never fully describe how blessed he is for the people in his life, and sharing their importance to him encourages others to reflect upon their own relationships. His earliest lesson in life was of commitment from his football coach. LeGrand was the waterboy and this position, he said, taught him humility. His coach told him that love is sacrifice, and he has not forgotten that since. LeGrand’s coach, family, and friends got him through the difficult times in his life and gave him the strength he needed to persevere. His story and ever-continuing determination in the face of adversity offered the audience a first-hand account that one should not take their feelings for granted.
LeGrand explained that his new definition for success, created from personal experience, is “the peace of mind you get being the best that you can be.” Success is not measured in comparison. He said that in life you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. His accident occurred while he was a junior in college, but he did not let that stop him from getting his degree. LeGrand took Skype and late-night classes, working hard because he knew his education was worth it. Without the use of his hands, LeGrand verbally spoke all of his papers and worked around the difficulties. So despite all physical and mental challenges, in 2014, LeGrand graduated from Rutgers with a degree in labor relations. Today, LeGrand is truly making a difference through his motivational speaking. No success comes easily, and the struggle to get there let’s one know what they are truly capable of.
Featured image Photo Credit: Mr. Tyler Jackow