Eric Legrand (left) and Sky Blue FC president Tony Novo. (Jeffrey Auger Photo)
TINTON FALLS, N.J. — Sky Blue FC announced Thursday that motivational speaker, philanthropist and former Rutgers University defensive tackle Eric LeGrand will serve as the team’s honorary captain when it welcomes the North Carolina Courage to Yurcak Field Saturday, May 19.
Kickoff for the match is set for 7 p.m. and a special on-field ceremony will be conducted to honor LeGrand.
“Being a fan of Sky Blue FC has been incredible because, not only do I get to see some great soccer, but they also support me and my foundation Team LeGrand,” LeGrand said. “I could not be more thankful for such a great relationship.”
LeGrand has been a long-time supporter of Sky Blue FC and the game of women’s soccer. Throughout the years, he has been a regular attendant at Sky Blue FC home matches, and he most recently introduced Carli Lloyd Sunday for her induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Sky Blue FC will reciprocate his ongoing support again this year at his 8th Annual A Walk to Believe 5K Run and Fun Walk Sunday, June 3, which will take place at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers University.
“All of us at Sky Blue FC are so grateful for our relationship with Eric LeGrand, and we proudly support his mission,” Sky Blue FC president and general manager Tony Novo. “You simply cannot find a more inspiring role model than Eric LeGrand. His strength, positivity and perseverance serve as a means of motivation for anyone who comes in contact with him. We look forward to honoring our longstanding friend and supporter on May 19, and we encourage everyone to support his foundation by attending A Walk to Believe on June 3.”
A native of Avenel, N.J., LeGrand attended Rutgers University, where his hard-nosed grit and determination made him a multi-faceted player for the Scarlet Knights. His team-first demeanor was very emblematic in his continuance to play on special teams even after he became a starter at defensive tackle. On October 16, 2010, LeGrand was running downfield on the kickoff team like he had done so many times before. Also, as he had done so many times before, he reached the ball carrier, but this time the tackle resulted in a C3-C4 injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Told by doctors that he would never breathe again without the help of a respirator, and never walk again, the true warrior inside LeGrand took form. By January 2011, he was already breathing on his own. He had also regained movement in his shoulders and sensation throughout his body. Aggressively pushing through his physical rehabilitation, he vowed to walk again and has since developed numerous philanthropic initiatives to raise funds for spinal cord injury research.