“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
The late, great Jim Valvano first delivered those words at the 1993 ESPYS as part of his now-legendary acceptance speech for the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award in the middle of his battle with cancer.
Former Rutgers DT Eric LeGrand echoed that phrase to close his own speech at the 2012 ESPYS, fittingly after accepting the Jimmy V. Award for Perseverance.
As you probably know by now, LeGrand was involved in a horrific on-field incident back in October of 2010, which left his vertebrae fractured and the young man paralyzed from the neck down.
Instead of giving up, the New Jersey native vowed to someday walk again and has been committed to that goal since the accident took place.
However, despite that lofty goal, LeGrand has made time to speak and inspire around the country. He isn’t letting his paralysis get in the way of living a full life and his prognosis looks better than ever.
LeGrand was initially told he would be a permanent quadriplegic and would have to use a ventilator to breathe for the remainder of his young life.
The former football player was having none of that, and had regained movement in his shoulders by January. In July of 2011, LeGrand was able to stand up and had more feeling and motion in his arms.
LeGrand’s most impressive moment came in October of that year, when he—with the aid of a wheelchair—led the Scarlet Knights onto the field in one of the most heartwarming scenes that has ever taken place in sports.
His approximately four-minute speech last night—which recapped the incident and his feelings towards it, spread awareness for those in wheelchairs and inspired the audience and viewers to appreciate what they have—concluded with LeGrand promising that he would one day be walking and dancing all over this world.
The infectious optimism that LeGrand possesses in the face of overwhelming adversity is what makes him a true hero and perhaps the most worthy recipient of the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award that there will ever be.