Eric Legrand’s first year at Rutgers was the same year Jets defensive end Jamaal Westerman became a senior leader for the Scarlet Knights.
LeGrand was coming to Rutgers as a three-star linebacker out of Colonia, N.J. and one of the vocal leaders of his recruiting class.
Now, nearly one year after a terrible collision during a special teams play in the third quarter of a game against Army left him paralyzed, LeGrand remains an inspiration to Rutgers and now, to the Jets.
On Thursday afternoon, Westerman arranged for LeGrand to get the VIP treatment as he toured the Jets facility and watched practice.
“I was in the locker room and out by the weight room,” LeGrand said. “I didn’t go through the whole thing yet because of practice.”
During the first few weeks after LeGrand’s injury, Westerman visited his former teammate three times a week, just sitting next to his bedside and keeping him company. Those were scary days for LeGrand, filled with uncertainty about whether he would ever have feeling in his lower body, let alone walk.
Recently, LeGrand reported that he stood upright for 45 minutes, a milestone in his drive to walk again.
“I just have to keep on standing up for at least a half-an-hour, so I can get my body on this locomotive training mat. It serves as a treadmill that they put these stems on,” LeGrand said. “A therapist is behind you and you’re in a harness and they just basically retrain your legs how to walk again.”
And walk again is something that Westerman believes LeGrand will definitely do again one day soon.
“We all believe that he’s going to walk one day and lead us out of the tunnel. With life comes adversity, ups and downs,” Westerman said.”But it’s how you handle it and he handles it with a smile every day even though it’s not easy. I know that he handled his rehab with a smile and is working hard at it. One day he’s going to walk.”
The Jets are doing their part to help LeGrand achieve those goals. Not only did they host him for yesterday’s practice, but linebacker Bart Scott is giving the proceeds from the launch of his “Can’t Wait” t-shirt line to support LeGrand’s recovery efforts.
Scott estimates that 95 percent of the first wave of shirts supporting LeGrand are sold out.
“Inspirational,” Scott said. “I think that he’s embraced it and he took the challenge on. I think he should be an inspiration to a lot of people.”
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for all your news out of Jets camp.