There will be a special moment before Rutgers makes its Big Ten debut against Penn State at home on September 13.
Both schools announced Tuesday that Rutgers’ Eric LeGrand and Penn State’s Adam Taliaferro will serve as honorary captains for their respective university when the teams meet for the first time since 1995. Both LeGrand and Taliaferro suffered serious spinal cord injuries during their playing careers and will join one another on the field for the pregame coin toss.
Taliaferro’s injury occurred when he made a tackle as a freshman against Ohio State on September 23, 2000. He ruptured his 5th vertebrae and bruised his spinal cord and doctors gave him a five percent chance of ever walking. He has since miraculously made a full recovery and works as an attorney serves on Penn State’s Board of Trustees.
LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down after fracturing his C-3 and C-4 cervical vertebrae while making a tackle on a kickoff against Army on October 16, 2010. LeGrand’s perseverance and work as a motivational speaker has made him an inspirational figure. Both LeGrand and Taliaferro are natives of New Jersey and have started foundations to help others dealing with paralysis.
“It’s going to be pretty cool,” LeGrand said. “Adam is a role model for me. From meeting him for the first time, seeing him on his feet again when doctors told him he’d never be on his feet, he has really pushed me during my recovery. He’s still a big inspiration to me.”
Taliaferro called the chance to serve as honorary captain with LeGrand an “honor.”
“For me, it’s an absolute honor to share this with Eric. Eric has inspired me ever since his injury and continues to do so each and every day,” Taliaferro said.
The two share a bond that goes back to a few days following the date of LeGrand’s injury.
“What makes this so special for me is that Adam was in touch with me from the very beginning,” said LeGrand. “I remember when I was first transferred to Kessler Institute; he came to see me the first month and a half. He has been supporting me and encouraging me from the start.”
Added Taliaferro: “I remember seeing Eric a couple of days after his injury, and I remember the first thing he told me is `I’m going to be just like you. I’m going to walk out of this.’ For him to still have that same tenacity to this day, as I said, Eric continues to inspire me. I believe in my heart he will get up and walk someday.”
LeGrand, who had his No. 52 retired by the schook, graduated from Rutgers in May and spoke to his fellow graduates at the school’s commencement ceremony. Taliaferro graduated from Penn State in 2005 and went on to earn his law degree from Rutgers School of Law-Camden in 2008.
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