Eric LeGrand is already a legend in Rutgers country, and on March 31 in Orlando Fla., the inspirational No. 52 and former football player joins sports entertainment immortality.
Since LeGrand's life-threatening injury, he built himself into a spokesperson for spinal cord research. LeGrand is already well decorated for his courageousness as a Jimmy V Award winner, Sports Illustrated cover athlete and New Jersey Hall of Fame member.
First reported by ESPN.com, World Wrestling Entertainment is the latest to honor LeGrand, in a relationship that began in October. LeGrand teamed up with WWE superstar and executive Triple H for the “Mission Possible” campaign. When LeGrand received the news three weeks ago during a phone conversation with Triple H, the feeling became surreal for the Rutgers football legend.
“He's a real down-to-earth guy,” LeGrand said. “He's all about giving back and being a part of that by making people happy and dreams come true. It's amazing to see how he is so helpful and so thoughtful. It's crazy because, at the same time, he still has that voice. You know, that voice he goes out there to yell at [former WWE champion] Seth Rollins, that's how he actually talks. It was so funny to hear that voice say such genuine things. You always here him coming at somebody.”
LeGrand becomes the third annual recipient of the prestigious “Warrior Award.” Named after the late, great Ultimate Warrior, the honor goes to individuals, who “exhibited unwavering strength and perseverance, and who lives life with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit of the Ultimate Warrior.”
Presented annually by Dana Warrior, the first two Warrior Awards honored Connor Michalek and Joan Lunden. Michalek, nicknamed “the Crusher,” died at 8, and received the award posthumously as the inspiration for Connor's Cure. Lunden, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, is a spokesperson for Susan G. Komen.
“It's a relationship that all started with doing Joe Defranco's podcast, and then to me and Triple H doing a Mission Possible episode and, now, being honored by this,” LeGrand said. “It's been an incredible journey.”
The WWE Hall of Fame ceremony takes place March 31 on Wrestlemania weekend. Broadcast live on the WWE Network, the incomplete list of 2017 inductees includes LeGrand, Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle, New Jersey's Diamond Dallas Page, Teddy Long, Beth Phoenix, Ravishing Rick Rude and the Rock and Roll Express.
“It's funny,” LeGrand said. “I used to hate Kurt Angle. When I was watching on TV, I was that guy yelling 'you suck' with his music. That was me. I used to hate when he would mess with (another wrestler). And Diamond Dallas Page, he was all WCW. When he used to throw up that rock for the Diamond Cutter, bang. That used to get my hyped. I'd start punching my little bear and stuff.”
On top of sports entertainment's grandest stage as a promotional tool for LeGrand's vision, Team LeGrand receives a $25,000 donation from WWE toward spinal cord injury research.
“We're going to release our third Mission Possible episode down there, probably that Friday or Saturday,” LeGrand said. “We're really excited about that. We're going to release that to the world down there, and we can also talk about my foundation and the incredible donation they're making. This relationship has been nothing but amazing. I can't thank them enough for it. I can show my brand and who I am and what I'm working on, and also get my foundation love. It's more than icing on the cake.”