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July 30, 2013Thanks in large part to his courage in the face of great adversity, Eric LeGrand's number 52 has become synonymous with Rutgers football.
Now, that number will belong to LeGrand alone.
The Avenel, N.J., native, who was paralyzed in a game against Army on October 16, 2010, will have his Number 52 jersey retired by his alma mater before a non-conference game against Eastern Michigan on Sept 14.
He will be the first player in the 140-plus year history of the Rutgers football program to have his jersey formally retired.
The decision to retire LeGrand's number had been in the works for several months, and Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood announced the honor at this morning's American Athletic Conference Media Kickoff.
"I was fortunate to be around with Eric in the recruiting process and through his career and now beyond it where he still is a huge and a daily part of our program while he continues to work toward graduation," Flood said. "He is someone who is special to us at Rutgers and is special to me as a coach and a friend. We're excited to be able to do that for him and his family, and I think it will be a great day not just for Rutgers football but for the LeGrand family and everybody who is associated with us."
Hearing that LeGrand has earned this distinction filled his former teammates with pride.
"That was really special," said Rutgers starting nose tackle Ike Holmes. "Eric and I were so cool and so close. I was just really happy that that happened for him."
Since his injury, LeGrand, a former defensive tackle, has inspired countless people with his upbeat demeanor and determination in working towards a full recovery.
LeGrand has connected with thousands of strangers through his active social media presence and has been recognized multiple times for his uncommon spirit.
He was presented with the Unsung Hero Award by the New Jersey Hall of Fame in June 2012, and received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance (named after Rutgers alum Jim Valvano) at the 20th annual ESPYs on July 11, 2012.
In August 2012, the Newark Star-Ledger named LeGrand the most influential person in New Jersey.
Despite his circumstances, LeGrand has always insisted that he will walk again. When he does, Flood has another tribute in store for him.
"I've been around Eric enough that he makes this statement quite often; that he's going to go back to the stadium where it happened and he's going to get up off that spot and he's going to walk off the field," Flood said. "I told him, 'I know you're going to do that too, and when you do it, I'm going to un-retire your jersey for you.' And then that number will become a significant number in our program again, to be worn only on special occasions by certain people.
"There's no doubt in my mind that that day will come."