Adam Taliaferro and Eric LeGrand have developed a special bond since spinal cord injuries suffered a decade apart ended their football careers.
The two players will meet again at midfield for the coin toss before their alma maters — Penn State and Rutgers, respectively — square off at High Point Solutions Stadium in the first Big Ten meeting between the two programs on Sept. 13.
“For me, it’s an absolute honor to share this with Eric,” Taliaferro said in a release. “Eric has inspired me ever since his injury and continues to do so each and every day.”
Taliaferro, then a true freshman cornerback for the Nittany Lions, fractured his fifth cervical vertebrae and bruised his spinal cord making a tackle against Ohio State on Sept. 23, 2000. He was paralyzed by the injury and doctors gave him a five percent chance of walking again.
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Taliaferro made a full recovery and was able to walk less than a year later. He skipped and jogged to midfield at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 1, 2001 in front of a ecstatic crowd of more than 109,000. Taliaferro graduated from Penn State with a degree in labor and industrial relations in 2005. A Voorhees, N.J., native, Taliaferro earned a law degree from Rutgers School of Law-Camden in 2008.
He is currently a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees.
LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down while making a tackle on a kickoff against Army on Oct. 16, 2010 at MetLife Stadium. He fractured his C-3 and C-4 cervical vertebrae and is confined to a wheel chair. But LeGrand has regained some lower body movement and occasionally has sensations in his fingers. LeGrand said Taliaferro has pushed him during his recovery, visiting LeGrand at Kessler Institute where LeGrand has undergone rehabilitation.
“It’s going to be pretty cool,” LeGrand said. “Adam is a role model for me. From meeting him for the first time, seeing him on his feet again when doctors told him he’d never be on his feet, he has really pushed me during my recovery.
“He’s still a big inspiration to me.”