PISCATAWAY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Eric LeGrand, paralyzed during a college football game nearly four years ago, told graduates at Rutgers University on Sunday that they must learn to deal with adversity to be successful in life.
“Sometimes life throws you a lot of different curveballs,” LeGrand told 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis before the ceremony. “But it’s the way you handle it.”
LeGrand, who was paralyzed from the neck down during a game against Army in 2010, also received his bachelor’s degree in labor studies Sunday. LeGrand announced in January he had completed his degree.
“It’s just all the hard work I put into the sport and adjust it to my life,” he said. “It was all worth it now being able to speak to all the students here and their families.”
LeGrand was not Rutgers’ first choice to speak. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed to deliver the keynote address, but she backed out following protests by students and some faculty because of her role in the Iraq War.
LeGrand said he was invited to speak, then disinvited. The school later said there was a “miscommunication” and that it never intended for LeGrand to be the lone speaker. He and former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean both address Sunday’s graduates.
Students told Dennis that LeGrand is all class.
“He definitely makes Rutgers really proud, and we’re happy to have him,” one woman said.
“I just thought that he was so nice about the entire thing, that I’m really happy that he’s speaking,” a man told Dennis.
School officials say the class of 2014 includes an estimated 16,431 graduates. That includes students from the New Brunswick-Piscataway, Newark and Camden campuses and the former University of Medicine and Dentistry.
But only a few thousand of them were expected to attend Sunday’s ceremony at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway. Most Rutgers students attend smaller graduation ceremonies within their schools and colleges, where they pick up their degrees.
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