The ESPYS are a fun punching bag, a somewhat contrived awards show that most like to jab at each year. But there are moments that leave lasting impressions that go beyond sports. This year there were two: Pat Summitt accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award and Eric LeGrand taking the stage and delivering a superb speech.
By now, we all know LeGrand's story. In 2010, LeGrand, then a defensive tackle for Rutgers, was left paralyzed after suffering a spinal cord injury while making a tackle on a kickoff against Army. It left him unable to move from the neck down, a stark reminder of the dangers of football.
His journey since has been both heartbreaking and inspiring. Along the way, LeGrand has gained a massive following that serves as his support system, keeping him upbeat and positive as he fights to regain the ability to walk. He's made excellent steps as his recovery has progressed, and each step has been a milestone worth celebrating.
The stage was LeGrand's on Wednesday night at the ESPYS. After a wonderful tribute video that documented his journey to this point, the former Rutgers DT took the stage and delivered a speech to remember.
The speech chronicled how LeGrand felt immediately after he suffered the injury -- on the field, with Greg Schiano telling him, "You've gotta pray, Eric." He didn't know if he was going to die on the field or what would happen next. Hearing him tell the story is a moment of raw emotion, a moment in which he confronts his own mortality.
Fittingly, LeGrand ends his speech by quoting Jimmy V, saying, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." He was, after all, accepting the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. The cause may be different, but the message is the same.
Your allergies may flare up when watching this. Consider yourself warned.
I have no doubt LeGrand will someday regain his ability to walk, then to run ... then to do everything he could before. He's too great a person, and too positive, not to. He's worked his tail off to make what may seem like baby steps toward recovery, but it'll happen. It simply has to.