WWE to recognize former Rutgers football player as 'Warrior' recipient – The Advocate

STAMFORD — WWE is honoring a former college football player who has earned legions of fans for his courage since sustaining a devastating injury that ended his career on the gridiron.

Eric LeGrand, 26, who was paralyzed from the neck down while playing for Rutgers University during a 2010 game, will receive the third annual Warrior Award, WWE officials announced this week.

The award is named after the late WWE Hall of Famer The Ultimate Warrior, who died of heart disease at the age of 54, in 2014. The accolade is given to an individual who WWE officials said has shown “unwavering strength and perseverance and who lives life with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit” of The Ultimate Warrior.

“It is an absolute honor to be named the 2017 Warrior Award recipient,” LeGrand said in a statement. “I am truly grateful for WWE’s support of my personal journey, and I am proud to continue to be an example of strength for people everywhere.”

LeGrand will receive the award from Dana Warrior, widow of The Ultimate Warrior, at the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony on March 31, at the Amway Center arena in Orlando, Fla.

“Eric LeGrand truly embodies the Warrior spirit with his determination and positive outlook,” Dana Warrior said in a statement. “I am honored to present this year’s Warrior Award to Eric at the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony.”

Before he sustained his injury, LeGrand was a promising defensive tackle. He was paralyzed during an October 2010 game against Army when he collided with a ball carrier on the opposing team.

Showing resilience after he was paralyzed, LeGrand became an inspirational figure around the country.

He resumed his college classes through Skype and launched a sports broadcasting career as an analyst for Rutgers Football Radio Network. He founded the charity Team LeGrand of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in 2013, and he has also become a prominent motivational speaker. In 2013, Rutgers retired his No. 52 jersey.

To support LeGrand in fundraising for research to find a cure for paralysis and help improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries, WWE officials said their company would make a $25,000 donation to Team LeGrand.

“Eric LeGrand has shown incredible perseverance and unwavering positivity throughout his recovery,” Stephanie McMahon, WWE’s chief brand officer, said in a statement. “From the work he does helping others with spinal cord injuries to his motivational speaking, Eric is the perfect choice for this prestigious award.”

Last year, the Warrior Award was presented to journalist and author Joan Lunden, who is also a breast cancer survivor. In 2015, the inaugural award was given to the late Connor Michalek, a WWE fan who died in 2014 at the age of 8 from pediatric brain cancer.

pschott@scni.com; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott

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