NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — While you watched this weekend's Major League Players' weekend games, you were probably taken aback by garish uniforms and nicknames on the back of the players' uniforms. Nicknames that were usually shortened version of last names, first names, childhood nicknames, some in English, some in Spanish.
Cincinnati Reds utility player Patrick Kivlehan, a former Rutgers football and baseball player, choose something different for his jersey, He choose to wear the slogan "Believe" on his jersey to honor a former Rutgers teammate, and close friend, Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed on the football field several years ago while playing for Rutgers in Giants Stadium.
Few sports fans in New Jersey can forget the horrific collision that left LeGrand a quadriplegic . In October 2010, LeGrand, a defensive tackle, was paralyzed during a game against Army. Doctors didn't think he'd wake up again—yet he did, and he also regained movement in certain parts of his body.
On August 22, LeGrand surprised Kivlehan on MLB Network's "The Rundown" TV show, which Kivlehan was a guest. LeGrand shocked his former teammate, who tuned in through a livestream from the ballpark to find LeGrand on the other end, in the network's Secaucus studio.
LeGrand had told Kivlehan that he was slated to appear on the network next week. Instead, he thanked his pal and reminisced about their time at Rutgers, right down to their “FIFA” video game rivalry in their college dorm.
“When he said he was going to use my name and slogan, 'bELieve,' I was like, 'That's an awesome idea, Kiv,'” LeGrand said. “I really do appreciate that.”
When LeGrand was in high school, the word “Believe” was posted above the locker room door. He patted the “E” and “L” before each game, a nod to his initials, he said yesterday.
After his brutal injury, another Rutgers teammate told that story to then-coach Greg Schiano, LeGrand said. The leader eventually reminded his player that he must continue to believe and have faith. Since then, LeGrand has become a major player in the fight against spinal cord injuries. Using the slogan “bELieve,” he said, he has raised $875,000 for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which hopes to cure spinal cord injuries and improve the lives of people with paralysis.
So when Kivlehan couldn't think of a nickname, he said, he spoke with two former Rutgers teammates. One of those conversations birthed the idea to rock LeGrand's slogan, Kivlehan told MLB Network co-hosts Kelly Nash and Scott Braun.
“I knew right away once he gave the idea that that's what I wanted to do,” Kivlehan, who played just one season of baseball at Rutgers before being drafted to the pros, said. “I still remember the hit and the aftermath. We struggled afterwards, but Eric was always with us and still is.”
“It took off from there,” LeGrand said.
And now, he and Kivlehan hope, it'll take off even further.
For more information on LeGrand and his charitable efforts, click here.
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