LeGrand Receives Esteemed Honor

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand received an exciting surprise on Tuesday when he learned he won a fan vote to be on the cover of next week's Sports Illustrated. LeGrand won the S.I. Moment of the Year over other memorable performances like Lionel Messi's superb season and the Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl run.

During an improbable New Jersey snowstorm in October, paralyzed Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand set another milestone by leading his team out of the tunnel against West Virginia.

Flanked by his four best friends, LeGrand battled two inches of snow in his wheelchair in his first on-field appearance during a game since his tragic injury a year earlier.

Two months later with 29.3 percent of the vote, fans across the globe voted LeGrand's personal triumph as the Sports Illustrated Best Moment of 2011.

"This is Eric," said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. "He's such an inspiration to so many. ... He's an inspirational guy. That's all you can say. I think, how do you touch people's heart? It's when you're so positive. I don't know how he does it, but that's who he is."

LeGrand beat out moment's like Lionel Messi's season and David Freese's post-season heroics for the St. Louis Cardinals with more than 78 million overall votes in the contest.

In a year of milestones and triumph for the courageous LeGrand, earning the Sports Illustrated cover may be his favorite moment.

"Growing up, that's the magazine that you know," LeGrand said. "If you would say that I would be on the cover of it, I wouldn't even know what to say."

LeGrand shares the cover with teammates Scott Vallone and Khaseem Greene, who walked on either side of him during the moment itself.

"I can't find the perfect words to describe it," Greene said. "Just having Eric around us whenever he comes to the Hale Center is good. To see him come out and the fans acknowledge him in the way they did. I don't know man, it's snowing, it's tough and he's still leading us out of the tunnel. I just can't find the words. It's the best feeling I've ever had."

LeGrand, whose most recent rehabilitation milestone includes being able to sit up on his own, has his eyes set on the moment that could give him a second Sports Illustrated honor.

"I remember thinking how cold I was going to be, but as I came out, I think my adrenaline just went rushing," LeGrand said. "I was seeing everyone cheering and the fans just yelling out there. It didn't even feel like the snow was there. Then I got back upstairs and I started freezing. ... I remember I tweeted, this time I left tracks in the snow, next time I want to leave footprints."

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