For the first time in the publishing history of Sports Illustrated, the magazine's readers have been responsible for selecting who will appear on the cover. In another first, a paralyzed athlete has provided the publication's Sports Moment of the Year, as readers voted for the occasion that football player Eric LeGrand, who has been paralyzed from the neck down since taking a bad hit during a game in 2010, led his Rutgers University teammates onto the field in his wheelchair.
LeGrand's return to the field during an October snowstorm beat out such other 2011 highlights as St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese's dramatic 11th-inning home run during Game 6 of the World Series and Spanish soccer star Lionel Messi taking his F.C. Barcelona team to a third Champions League title.
LeGrand was a defensive tackle with the Rutgers football team when he collided with an opposing kick returner during a game in October, 2010. The hit left him completely paralyzed and dependent on a respirator to breathe. He was eventually able to breathe again on his own, and by October 29, 2011, was able to guide his wheelchair on to the Rutgers home field to support his teammates. He summed up the experience with the following tweet: "So I left tire tracks in the snow yesterday as I led my team out. Next time it will be footprints."
Here is LeGrand's return to the field, voted by SI readers as the Sports Moment of the Year for 2011:
LeGrand's snowstorm entrance will be cover image of the December 26 issue of the magazine.
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