For the past week and a half, Sports Illustrated had asked its Facebook community to select what should be the "2011 Sports Moment of The Year" from 15 possibilities and, today, announced the winning moment is Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand leading his team out of the tunnel at their game versus West Virginia. LeGrand remains paralyzed after trying to make a tackle against Army in October 2010, so his return to the football field on October 29, 2011 was poignant. He said of that day, "So I left tire marks in the snow yesterday as I led my team out. Next time will be footprints."
On Monday, LeGrand appeared as the guest of honor at a Bart Scott charity event and told the Star-Ledger, "I'm doing very well. I actually sat up for 35 seconds today with somebody holding my pelvis, I just came from therapy and just got off the treadmill and everything so I'm doing very well with that whole thing, I'm very excited."
As for the Sports Illustrated cover voting, SI reports:
Only during the final two days of balloting, when the international votes leveled off and two of New Jersey's most prominent politicians weighed in on LeGrand's behalf -- Governor Chris Christie and Newark mayor Cory Booker both tweeted their support -- did a late surge nudge the former Rutgers player over the top. And so a campaign that had touched more than 78 million Facebook fans and Twitter followers came to honor someone who has used just such platforms to stitch together a community that inspires him as he inspires it. As LeGrand tweets out updates on his comeback from @BigE52_RU, Big E Nation marks each milestone. (Last week, for the first time since his injury, LeGrand was able to briefly sustain a sitting position unaided.) Voice recognition software helps him text and tweet. His wheelchair is Bluetoothed. He takes classes via Skype and updates his Facebook page regularly. Indeed, the very digital technology that helped put LeGrand's story on this week's cover has normalized his life as much as that's possible. "He can control his Twitter, he can control his Facebook," says LeGrand's mother, Karen. "It helps him have a sense of independence. It's something that he can do himself without anybody's help."
, "Can't believe I won, thank you all so much for the voting. Don't even know what to say right now, love you all. Back to the grind!"
Here's video of LeGrand and the Scarlet Knights at West Virginia: