ROSELLE — As he was wheeled into recovery following surgery, fear and doubt followed Eric LeGrand.
This was October 2010 and the Rutgers defensive lineman had just days earlier suffered two fractured vertebrae in a collision with an Army kick returner. When he tried to move his arms and legs, he said, it was like they were held down by 10,000-pound weights.
Soon, though, friends started showing up. Former Pop Warner teammates he hadn't seen in years stopped by. They were followed by middle school classmates and high school buddies and college friends.
The outpouring of care and concern from people throughout his life was touching to LeGrand and it made him realize something very important.
"It made me think, 'All these people coming to support me - it's all about how you treat people,'" he said. "If I had treated people badly my entire life, there's no way that support that came for me would have supporting me."
Always be kind to others was just one of the life lessons LeGrand imparted to the 100 or so Abraham Clark High School students who filed into the auditorium to hear him speak on Thursday.
Several of the school's athletic team members as well as National Honor Society Members were chosen to attend the event, which was sponsored by Plymouth Rock and Teachers Insurance Plan of NJ.
Mayor Christine Dansereau, Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Baker and Principal Rashon Mickens also came to hear LeGrand speak about when - not if - he's going to walk again.
LeGrand continues to go through several hours of physical therapy each week. Since the injury occurred, he had regained movement in his shoulders and sensation throughout his body. He has worked closely with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and he started the "bELieve Foundation."
Since the injury, he has become a sports announcer, an author, a college graduate and a motivational speaker - not to mention an advocate and an inspiration.
"He has gained a tremendous prospective and his is a story of great resilience," Baker said. "With the support he has gotten from (Rutgers coach Greg) Schiano and others, he has had great success since the injury. He has attacked life and persevered through all of its trials and travails."
"Eric's story of adversity and triumph speaks volumes to the students," Mickens said. "His message will resonate with some of our students who are going through their own tough times."