On Oct. 16, 2010, the entire college football world stopped when Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was carted off the field motionless after a scary fourth-quarter collision during a kickoff return. LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down and given a 0-5% chance of walking the rest of his life.
Despite the devastating break life handed LeGrand that fateful day, he’s never let go of his positive attitude. Now, he’s using his infectious positivity and business savvy to give back to his hometown through coffee.
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A midseason college football game between Rutgers and Army wouldn’t normally dominate the headlines the way it did in 2010. During the fourth quarter, Rutgers kicked off to Army after tying up the game at 17. Eric LeGrand, who was one of the Scarlet Knights’ best special teams weapons, shot out of a cannon and dropped the ball carrier near the 25-yard line.
As Rutgers celebrated the big hit, LeGrand laid motionless on the turf. Team doctors rushed onto the field to check on the defensive tackle, but he could barely even speak.
“All I could say at the time was, ‘I can’t breathe,’” LeGrand told Good Morning America this week. “And then my coach comes out and looks down, coach [Greg] Schiano, and he goes, ‘Eric, you have to pray right now.’ When he said that to me, that was honestly the scariest moment of my life.”
After he was stretchered off the field and transported to a local hospital, doctors determined LeGrand fractured his C3 and C4 cervical vertebrae and was paralyzed from the neck down. LeGrand was told he would most likely need help from a machine to breathe for the rest of his life and that he had a 0-5% chance of walking again.
LeGrand has recovered enough to breathe on his own and operate by himself in a wheelchair.
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Eric LeGrand has maintained his competitive drive even after the life-changing injury that forced him into a wheelchair. Over the last decade, LeGrand returned to Rutgers to earn his degree, hosted his own mini web series, became a motivational speaker, and even wrote a book.
More recently, LeGrand has become an entrepreneur. He noticed all of his friends drinking coffee daily during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it gave him an idea. In January, he opened LeGrand Coffee House for online orders. The store is scheduled to open this summer in LeGrand’s hometown of Woodbridge, N.J.
“It all started with a bunch of texts with friends and a group message over the past spring and summer, always sipping our coffee and it gave the idea — I’ve always loved cafes, I wasn’t a big coffee drinker but the opportunity presented itself,” LeGrand told My Central Jersey.
LeGrand was never a huge coffee drinker, but an experience with a famous local roaster known as the “Walter White of coffee” got him hooked. Now, he’s teaming up with the roaster to bring delicious coffee to New Jersey and the entire country.
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LeGrand has always wanted to give back to his hometown of Woodbridge, N.J., and what better way to do that than with coffee?
“My hometown has a huge place in my heart, they’ve always supported me and had my back through my injury and even before that and always supported me in everything I did, so I wanted my coffee house to bring my community together,” LeGrand told ABC 7 last month.
That’s exactly what it will do when LeGrand’s shop opens this summer.
“I want it to be like the third place,” LeGrand said. “You have your home. You have your job. Where’s that third place that you go, that you need, when you want to just get away or you want to hang out and stuff. That’s what I want with LeGrand Coffee House. I want you to be able to come there. Be able to be comfortable, enjoy the coffee and have that satisfaction when you leave there, like, ‘Wow, that was a really cool, unique vibe. I enjoyed myself there. We had a lot of fun.’”
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