Earlier this week Eric LeGrand emerged from months of rehabilitation for first sustained contact with the media (and correspondingly, the public that get their news via the media.) What becomes readily apparent from watching Eric talk over the past few days, listening to his voice as he responds to questions, and reading his answers in print is that this is one profoundly unique individual. Here he is trying to regain control of his motor functions, and Eric still maintains a deep and nuanced perspective. He is grateful to be alive. He saw fellow patients at the Kessler Institute with far more dire prognoses. That perspective alone serves to illustrate LeGrand's true strength of character.
He speaks of being put through his ordeal because he had the capacity to persevere through it, and all available evidence points in that direction. Spinal cord injuries remain a profoundly muddled area of the medical field, with a great deal of inherent uncertainty. Medical advances are continually helping to push the field forward, but even in the best-case scenarios there is little comfort in possessing no clear certainty regarding how the healing process will progress. That awful moment last October when Eric was covering a return, and the subsequent days and weeks enacted a steep toll of personal devastation on each member of the Rutgers athletics community that is still quite difficult to articulate. Personally, I did not take it well, and am still having trouble coming to terms with everything that happened.
For the purpose of running this web site, it was important to try and gather a sound and clear-eyed account of what may be to come. Delving into the detail and research served the double purpose for me at least of being able to try and find a constructive outlet for my pervasive and underlying cloud of dread at the time. Trying to stay on top of everything was a way, if even momentarily, to not mentally replay that afternoon's sequence of events over and over again. Ever since, that cloud always fades to an extent with each passing bit of good news. Everyone pulling for Eric is fortunate only to hear of the progress, and not of the starts and fits, of the bad days that have a seemingly inevitable place in every successful rehabilitation process. He can start making sense of what happened, but I surely cannot yet at least.
Eric LeGrand was the heart and soul of the Rutgers football team. He was (and remains) an affable, born leader, with not a single bad word every spoken against him or his reputation. If something like this could happen to him of all people, then there is just no order to things whatsoever. There cannot be. That day scarred everything with a deep wound of injustice, and nothing can ever truly be right again until Eric is able to stand up on his own two feet again and resume some trappings of a normal life. How is it even acceptable to squander away one second, when Eric is giving it his all, believing in himself, and not giving up? The explanation to this nagging question is quite simple, being on display for all to see over the past few days. Eric LeGrand is a uniquely strong individual, far more powerful than you, I, or anyone else with any association to the Rutgers football program could ever hope to be or comprehend.
Some may call it a cop out to say Eric is qualitatively better. A decade ago, he was probably playing touch football and watching SpongeBob. He is just a normal 20-year old, warts and all, who has managed to successfully make the best of a bad situation. Between his loving family, the athletic department, and the broader local community he has the benefit of having a terrific support system set up, and has not had to go through it all alone. Still, this sentiment should not be tempered, because he deserves it. We can all do our part, in donating to the Believe Fund, and supporting spinal cord research, but no good will gesture will ever be enough to erase the guilt of what happened. Putting Eric LeGrand on a pedestal is the only effective coping method that appears available from my vantage point at the moment, even though the best way to take inspiration from his plight would be to directly emulate his courage and spirit. Because, after all, we all cannot be as strong as Eric.