Paralyzed Rutgers Player "Thinks He Will Play Football Again"

Eric LeGrand suffered "incomplete" spinal cord injury

By Brian Thompson
|  Wednesday, Dec 15, 2010  |  Updated 7:00 AM EDT
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In <a title=Woodbridge, a community is rallying around a Rutgers football player paralyzed two months ago." />

In Woodbridge, a community is rallying around a Rutgers football player paralyzed two months ago.

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Even as volunteers have launched a community-based fund raising campaign for him, Rutgers football star Eric LeGrand is telling those who know him best that his playing days are not over..

Jack Nevins is president of the foundation set up to help LeGrand and his family and he visits him at least twice a week.

"He is convinced that he is going to beat this and he's gonna walk, there's no question in his mind," Nevins told NBCNewYork, then added, "He thinks he's going to play football again."

Doctors say LeGrand suffered an "incomplete" spinal cord injury during October's Rutgers-Army game when LeGrand tackled a player head first, offering some hope that LeGrand will indeed walk again.

Paralyzed from the neck down, Nevins said LeGrand now has some feeling in his hands and is making progress faster than Penn State's Adam Taliaferro who was paralyzed during a game in 2000, but was able to walk eight months later.

And while insurance will cover most if not all of his medical costs, Nevins said there are items like enlarging the family home to help his rehabilitation, and even paying off the mortgage that is motivating an intense fund raising effort.

So Nevins, who coached LeGrand in Pop Warner football and whose two sons played with him, lead a group of volunteers to create the Eric LeGrand Patriot Saint Foundation.

Tuesday night, they were selling sweats and t shirts at a popular watering hole, Rug's and Riffy's, in LeGrand's hometown of Woodbridge while the bar donated a certain percentage of its Taco Night proceeds to the foundation.

A motorcycle rally is being planned, even a statewide flag football tournament that might end with a championship game in the Rutgers stadium.

At a recent Rutgers home game, middle schoolers who knew Eric passed donation buckets in the stands.

"Because he's basically like family to us," said Mikayla Shea, 12.

Nevins' son John was a team mate of LeGrand at Colonia High School.

"Everyday that we went to practice, he was excited, he wanted to be there," John Nevins said of LeGrand.

With a core group of some 15 volunteers, the Foundation is either holding an event or planning for an event nearly every week.

What inspires them? Besides LeGrand himself, Leigh Farrell said "I'm a mom, I'm a parent, I have a son who plays football."

(Donations can be made through ericlegandpatriotsaintfoundation.com)

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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