PISCATAWAY, NJ–If Eric LeGrand is still feeling upset about Rutgers' recent miscommunication regarding his invitation to speak at the 2014 commencement ceremony, then tonight’s Sky Blue FC benefit match is sure to cheer him up.
The National Women’s Soccer League is comprised of 9 teams, including Sky Blue FC, which plays its home games at Yurcak Field on the Busch campus of Rutgers University.
The event called “Scarlet Knight” was announced several weeks ago by Sky Blue FC, NJ’s only women’s professional soccer club/franchise.
The team has dedicated tonight’s evening game against the Chicago Red Stars to RU students and members of the community. Local hero Eric LeGrand will be honored before kickoff which is at 7 p.m.
Sky Blue FC has joined Team LeGrand, an initiative was launched in September when the Scarlet Knights retired Legrand's number 52. No other player’s number had ever been retired in Rutgers history.
"While I've been so fortunate in my recovery process, there are so many people living with spinal cord injuries who don't have access to the proper resources," said LeGrand in a statement the day before the game.
"By creating Team LeGrand, I'll be able to help all of those individuals on their road to recovery, and together we can achieve Christopher Reeve's dream of empty wheelchairs."
LeGrand appreciates women’s soccer in a big way:
“When they fall down, they get up,” LeGrand told Home News Tribune’s Ryan Dunleavy. “In men’s soccer, they flop, they scream. In women’s soccer, they get up and go after another person. That’s the best part.”
“It means a lot that they’re doing this because I respect the game a lot,” continued LeGrand.
“I think it’s a big step. Now hopefully we can get the whole league involved because the more people involved, the more awareness, the more funds are raised, the better chances people have for more research — not only for me but for everybody else. My mind, with everything I do, I’m always thinking to the bigger side.”
Sky Blue FC will dedicate Section 8 as the "RU Riot Section" for the match tonight and offer students or anyone associated with the university tickets for $10 each using promo code: RU52. (tickets.skybluefc.com) or by phone (888-723-2849).
Additionally, the code will send $2 (included in the ticket price) to Team LeGrand as a donation.
Team LeGrand is affiliated with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which helps individuals living with spinal cord injury (SCI) and their families by supporting quality of life initiatives and emerging therapies that can lead to cures for SCI.
Legrand has become a big fan of Sky Blue FC since last year’s inaugural NWSL season. He is friends with several of the players, including some who also played soccer at Rutgers. He is known to have dated one as well.
“The past couple years, one of our biggest fans is Eric LeGrand,” said director of marketing and sales, Jim Gooley.
“The girls love him. There is a real connection there. With that, we said, this guy is inspiring us and we’re inspiring him as well. We have this venue, we have these fans, we have this great game, why not use it to call attention to Eric’s cause?”
The response to “Scarlet Knight” has been well received by students. Tonight’s event could represent the perfect opportunity to allow a reward or break after intense study for final exams which begin tomorrow.
“Why not have the Rutgers students come out in mass and cheer one last time before they hit their summer?” Gooley said.
Sky Blue FC president and general manager, Tony Novo, said: "Eric LeGrand is truly an inspiration and we are honored to be able to partner with Team LeGrand. He's been a big supporter of the club and we're glad to have the opportunity to show our appreciation by giving back."