It was the fall of 2010 when Eric LeGrand suffered an injury during a Rutgers football game that left the former defensive tackle paralyzed from the neck down. His football career was finished, his education was not.
A junior at the time, LeGrand began taking classes again in January 2011. He started with one class via Skype from the Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation, the center where he lived for nearly six months following the injury. As LeGrand’s health improved, he added classes, taking some night courses at Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus.
Today, LeGrand graduated with a bachelor’s degree in labor relations.
— Eric LeGrand (@EricLeGrand52) May 17, 2014
— John O’Boyle (@johnjoboyle) May 18, 2014
It was a difficult process, LeGrand admits. He began his college career in 2008, his path to the degree took six years.
“It took a lot of dedication,” LeGrand told NJ.com. “The best thing about it is I was just so used to my routine at school that when January came, it was just, ‘All right, it’s time to take a class.’ I was only taking one. It took a lot of effort just to take that one. It felt like taking four. It just felt like it was something I needed to do, especially since I was done playing football. I needed to get my degree for my career.”
LeGrand is sharing his journey with his fellow graduates today. He said it “better be the best speech I’ve ever given.”
“I’m just happy that I was able to work it out and now I can get back to what I wanted to do and that’s speak to the class because that’s what it’s all about, especially since they’re close to my age and I really feel like I can give a good message to them.”