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Legends Linked By Football – Hometown View

Patrick McDermott, Getty Images

Today’s segment is about two men who are linked by a sport which in the case of one helped make him a legend while for the other could have taken away any hope he had for a future.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Joe Paterno turns 85 years old today and I’m sure there will be some kind of family celebration at the Paterno home in State College, Pennsylvania. However it will probably be a muted celebration as Paterno is just home from a recent hospital stay to treat his second broken pelvis in four months and of course is also undergoing radiation and chemotherapy for lung cancer. It’s not his health problems that have made 2011 the worst of Paterno’s adult life but rather watching his legacy self destruct in the wake of a child sex abuse scandal at his beloved Penn State University.

While his fate has already been decided by most in the court of public opinion I prefer to wait for all the facts to come out and continue to remind others that it’s Jerry Sandusky who will be on trial next year and not Paterno, who some have made the villain in the entire sordid affair. I remain of the opinion that Paterno’s decades of success with honor, achievements and philanthropy should not and cannot just be overlooked. I hope they light the candles on his 86th birthday cake in a year and he has a bright smile on his face.

Eric LeGrand Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated

Last October Eric LeGrand was lying on the turf at what’s now MetLife Stadium unable to move. The Rutgers defensive tackle had just crashed into an Army kick returner and later was told he would likely be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life due to spinal cord damage and two fractured vertebrae. But LeGrand refused to accept his fate and in just 14 months has made remarkable progress while providing inspiration for others.

Not even the most optimistic of his doctors could imagine the 21-year old would accomplish what he has and on Halloween weekend in the midst of a freak snowfall he led the Scarlet Knights onto the field at Rutgers Stadium from his motorized wheelchair. That moment was chosen by fans and readers of Sports Illustrated as the best of 2011 and Tuesday it was announced that the picture of LeGrand, wearing his #52 with a smile on his face will grace the cover of this year’s final edition. Displaying his grit and determination LeGrand says that when (not if) he walks again he’ll go the exact spot he was injured and lie there for a few seconds. Then he’ll get up on his own power and walk away. Here’s hoping that comes in 2012 for him.



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