A number retirement ceremony unlike any other

AP Photo/Mel Evans
AP Photo/Mel Evans

Eric LeGrand’s football career probably wasn’t going to make him a household name, until a horrific injury in 2010 changed his life forever.

LeGrand, then a junior defensive tackle at Rutgers, was paralyzed while trying to make a tackle in the fourth quarter of a game against Army three years ago. He hasn’t walked since. On Saturday, Rutgers retired LeGrand’s No. 52 that he wore for three years before his career-ending injury.

It’s the first number Rutgers has retired in the football program’s 144 years of existence.

(Also read: Which ranked football program represents the smartest university?)

I believe the Scarlet Knights made the right decision for their first-ever jersey retirement because the ceremony is reserved for people who do spectacular things. When future generations bring their kids to a football game and the kids ask their parents about that number on the facade of the stadium, there should be an inspiring story behind that immortal player’s career.

Never has that been more true than with LeGrand.

Plenty of football players suffer injuries that end their career. Most of them drift off into anonymity, but LeGrand refused to do that when he was told he’d never walk again. He relied on the sport that took his legs away to get his message out: He was going to walk again, but he’d need a lot of help.

He set out on torturous rehabilitation to make whatever strides possible with a broken body. He speaks to anyone who will listen to him and raises money for others who suffered paralysis, and he assists the radio broadcast team for Rutgers football games. You’ve probably seen him in Subway commercials, and he does as much as he can to get back on his feet, despite the limits his body has set.

LeGrand has been one of the best ambassadors for Rutgers in our generation, if not the history of the school.

Seems like the perfect person to honor.

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