A motivational speaker, a radio and television analyst, and author, Eric LeGrand has made a name as a great communicator. A prolific poster on social media with over 170,000 Twitter followers, he’s never shy about sharing the newest developments of his day. That’s why receiving the call that he was being inducted into the Rutgers Hall of Fame seemed to pose the biggest challenge for him yet.
“I remember the first initial reaction was that I wanted to text my friends and family,” said LeGrand. “The goosebumps that go through you when you get so excited and you want to tell everybody, that’s the exact feeling I had when I got the call. I wanted to be able to share that news with everyone because it was such an honor to be in the Rutgers Hall of Fame.”
The official announcement to unveil the five-member Class of 2020 was still a few weeks away from being made so LeGrand had to keep his excitement under control. For him, Rutgers University and being a Scarlet Knight had meant so much to him since he arrived ‘On the Banks’ as an 18-year-old freshman. Not being able to share that the school which had provided him with lifelong friends and family was going to induct him into its Hall of Fame was a tough secret to conceal.
“Obviously it’s an honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said LeGrand. “The history of Rutgers University and to have my name; tied to it now in the upper echelons of the Hall of Fame, that’s special. It’s hard to put into words because of how much the University has given to me and what I’ve been able to learn from the University, and I literally call it my family. It’s just an incredible honor, and I’m forever grateful and thankful for being a part of this.”
Due to COVID-19, the Class of 2020 is one year off their originally scheduled induction ceremony. The October date in 2020 carried special significance for LeGrand as it was exactly 10 years to the date since his spinal injury against Army at MetLife Stadium in 2010. LeGrand planned for that 10-year mark to be a celebration for what he sees are blessings since that fateful day.
“I don’t look at my 10 years as a bad day,” said LeGrand. “I look at it as a celebration of what has happened over the past 10 years, compared to that dreadful day 10 years ago. My whole idea is 10 years of celebration and to have it on that day, in that moment there was no better way that I wanted to celebrate it.”
Although off by a year, the delay caused by the pandemic will do nothing to damper the celebration LeGrand has planned for this year’s enshrinement ceremony.
“I’m still part of the 2020 class,” said LeGrand. “I still consider it that significant day, 10 years of my injury and the celebration of what has happened since. It’s a celebration of how far you’ve come and overcome these past 10 years, and it’s a perfect moment to shine on by going into the Rutgers Hall of Fame.”
Fast forward to the present and all that has transpired up until now have been building blocks for LeGrand’s latest venture into the coffee world. His calling has been to help others, inspire them to reach heights they may have thought were unimaginable and motivate them to attack the challenges of the day. Couple that mission with a saying from head football coach Greg Schiano and the spark for a new business endeavor was born. According to the former Scarlet Knight defensive tackle, Schiano always preached to his players, “be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and LeGrand saw that as his charge.
“I inspire people, motivate people and help people overcome adversity,” LeGrand. “But how can I bring that to people every day. And when the idea of coffee came up, people need coffee for that pick me up. It was me stepping out of my comfort zone and saying okay, “I don’t really know much about coffee, but I’m willing to learn and educate myself.’”
LeGrand immersed himself into the coffee business, managing all aspects from the nuances of sourcing coffee beans, working with a local roaster, designing packaging and learning how to marketing his product direct to consumers. The hard work paid off as LeGrand Coffee House was born.
A 2014 Rutgers graduate with his degree in labor relations, the entrepreneur finds himself leading an organization and effectively back on a team where he thrives. That shared sense of responsibility is what inspires LeGrand to in his pursuit of greatness.
“My inspiration is responsibility,” said LeGrand. “My whole entire life, I never wanted to let people down. I was always a part of a team, and if it was because of me that the team didn’t succeed, that didn’t sit right with me. I felt like I needed to be handling my responsibility and getting better all the time, and that correlates now into my life. If I’m not holding up to the standards that I preach all the time, it doesn’t sit right with me and that’s what continues to push me and drive me.”
Getting a business off the ground can be labor intensive regardless of the industry. It requires a drive, passion and focus that many can find to be tough to channel. In many ways, LeGrand found that the grind paralleled his experience with Rutgers football. He often encounters people who comment with amazement at how hard he works and how he remains motivated in pursing countless ventures. They say things like, “how do you keep up with all that you do.”
“This isn’t really hard for me,” said LeGrand. “What I had to go through at Rutgers, that was hard. That daily grind and keeping up with that schedule everyday, making sure you’re in the right place at the right time. Giving your best ability at literally everything you have to do. It kind of becomes this new normal now, this is my habit.”
That same mindset has been integral to getting LeGrand to where he is today. It has served him well in business, but ultimately that foundation was laid a long time ago leading up to his injury. It has been the driving force that helped him approach life after his injury with unwavering focus.
“When you’re around that every single day, it’s what you’re used to,” said LeGrand. “Especially at the age that we’re at age 18 to 22 years old. You absorb a lot of things and that’s how you really grow from that boy to a man. I got hurt at 20 years old, but I understood what needed to be done. So, when I got injured, it’s not like okay, all of a sudden that all goes out the window. That mindset was already built.
“Yes my physical abilities may have been taken away, but my mindset was already still in that attack mode, that grind mode that I’m still going to accomplish what I want to.”
A big piece of the grind will culminate this December when the first LeGrand Coffee House storefront opens in his hometown of Woodbridge, New Jersey. The grand opening will mark another great success for LeGrand, but in no way is he resting with that next accomplishment.
“Eric the entrepreneur is not done yet,” said LeGrand. “God-willing, I have many more years. I have plans, I have visions and I’m on a mission to help as many people as I can.”