LeGrand Family Thankful for Local Support

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Before Eric LeGrand's injury and courageous story brought him support from the entire world, Rutgers fans supported him as an exciting recruit and engaging member of the Scarlet Knights. Though more than 130 countries are responsible for voting him on the cover of Sports Illustrated, LeGrand and his mother, Karen LeGrand, each offered a special thank you to Rutgers fans.

It got so crazy on the message boards this week, that Karen LeGrand had to laugh about it. Rutgers fans have always been supportive of her son, paralyzed football player Eric LeGrand. But when you give rabid fans an internet cause to rally behind, insanity often follows.

That is what took place within the online Rutgers community since Sports Illustrated named LeGrand a finalist for the cover and 2011 Moment of the Year. Decided by an online fan vote, LeGrand won his spot on the cover of the prestigious magazine.

"I wasn't voting hundreds of times like they do it on the message boards," said Karen LeGrand on the drive to put her son on the cover. "Literally, people were saying that they voted 500 times, they voted 1,00 times. Every commercial, they voted. It was great. They love Eric. They're nuts. Especially when the soccer player [Lionel Messi] got into first, they were all nervous. ... Everybody freaked out. Now it's Rutgers against the world. It was fun though. It really was."

LeGrand's mother, who said she cannot wait to check the reactions on the message boards tonight, said she especially loved reading the forums in the last week of online voting.

"I was cracking up reading them, especially the Rutgers boards," she said. "Everybody was like so, ‘we got to vote.' And then when that soccer player got into first place, everybody was freaking out. ‘Where did he come from? How did he get in first place?' You had people saying, ‘I was up for an hour voting, I put in 500 votes. I'm going to do it while I'm watching TV.' ... It was great. It was funny. It was really funny."

Eric LeGrand himself was a message boards favorite long before his injury and courageous path to recovery. But the support since, he said, is a big part in keeping him going.

"They've since day one, since I was a recruit," LeGrand said. "Having them support me through this whole thing ... I thank them for all this support and just keep it coming."

LeGrand received more than 20 million votes worldwide from more than 170 countries. That kind of support means everything to him, he said.

"It just feels great, but like I said, I take this as a responsibility, my whole injury," LeGrand said. "I actually have all of these people following me, behind me. ... I have to get better. That's the main goal to show that you have to believe in the man above and believe in yourself. You can do anything that you want to do. If I can get back up on my feet, I know I will, I just don't know when, I think it's really going to show the world."

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