LeGrand appears on Sports Illustrated cover

Eric LeGrand, the Rutgers defensive tackle who was paralyzed from the neck down in a game last season, and who continues to inspire fans with his against-the-odds recovery, appears on the cover of the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, which hits newsstands Wednesday.

The photo is of LeGrand leading his teammates onto the field prior to Rutgers' game against West Virginia on Oct. 29. (Click here to see it.)

Fans chose that as the 2011 sports moment of the year, voting via a Facebook poll. There were participants from 178 different countries, and LeGrand received 29.3 percent of the votes. Soccer star Lionel Messi finished second (19.2 percent).

LeGrand tweeted this on Wednesday, after hearing the news: "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!"

After his injury, doctors predicted that LeGrand would never be able to breathe again without the aid of a ventilator. But he continues to make great strides, now able to sit up, and predicts he will one day walk again.