Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand was paralyzed in an October 16, 2010 college football game, fracturing his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae. Since then, he has been at the forefront of raising awareness for spinal cord injury research and is a valued ambassador for the Wings for Life World Run.
Recently, LeGrand invited the Wings for Life Foundation into his home in New Jersey to see a side of him people may not know — how the artwork on his body symbolizes his strength and philosophy on life (watch the video below). On this day, he was in the process of getting a new set of tattoos, Zodiac symbols for his niece and nephew to celebrate their lives.
“He just absolutely loves them and wants to be involved as much as he can,” said his mother Karen.
Eric got his first tattoo as a junior in high school — an “E” with a crown. Since then, he’s gotten his last name across the top of his back above an image of a gladiator that represents someone on top of the world; an image of Jesus on his left arm; the words “Lion Hearted” on his right arm; and “Family First” on the inside of his bicep.
“There’s a lot of themes and purpose with my tattoos,” LeGrand explains. “My tattoos paint a picture of my body through the years — my interests, my family, things that matter to me the most.”
“A lot of his tattoos are really about progression forward, with him getting better,” said tattoo artist Paula Lopez. “The crazy thing about tattooing Eric is that everybody automatically assumes that there’s no pain involved, but his body does register the pain.”
“It’s crazy the feeling I get as a quadriplegic,” LeGrand explains. “In the beginning I get an immediate rush to my head and it allows me to know something is going on. But as time goes on, it easily settles down until she hits a trigger spot on my body and it twitches. It’s actually kind of funny to see.”
Along with his involvement in Wings for Life, Eric established Team LeGrand in 2013 in partnership with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, an organization that focuses on finding a cure for paralysis and helping to improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries.
He has been an inspiration to hundreds of thousands of people, from leading the Rutgers football team onto the field for a 2011 game in a motorized wheelchair, to being offered the final spot on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster in 2012 as a tribute to his courage. That year, he also received the prestigious Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.
“Things have been honestly a blessing and the best is yet to come,” says LeGrand.
Rally around him on May 8 and run with the world to support spinal cord injury research. Registration is now open for runs in Santa Clarita, California, and Sunrise, Florida, but you can still participate wherever you are via the Wings for Life World Run Selfie App.