124: Joe Delagrave | Story of Becoming a Paralympian

Joe Delagrave | Paralympic Rugby player

Joe Delagrave | Rugby Paralympian

Joe Delagrave was a three sport athlete throughout High School, which lead to playing Division II football at Winona State University.

July 10, 2004, a casual boating adventure turned into a life altering accident. Joe went from a college football player to a paralyzed 19 year old kid.  

Joe found an adaptive sport in wheelchair rugby where he has served as captain for the national team, won multiple medals, competed and won bronze in the 2012 Paralympics, and will be competing in the 2020 Paralympics.

Joe is married to April Delagrave Together, they have three children, Braxton, Brayden, Brynley.  He is a keynote speaker, consultant, and professional counselor.

Joe Delagrave joins me to discuss the tragic event that changed his life, wrestling with his identity in Christ and his identity as an athlete and becoming a paralympic rugby player, who will be competing in Tokyo in a few short weeks. 

Questions Joe and I Discuss:

  1. (3:28) As we dive into your story, set the stage by sharing a bit about your childhood and your love of sports.
  2. (5:01) You were a college athlete, playing division II football, as a college freshman, but on July 10, 2004, a defining event took place that changed your life.  What happened?
  3. (15:00) You’ve said identity is something you’ve wrestled with throughout your life.  As a 19 year old boy relearning to do everything, how would you describe that wrestling?
  4. (22:18) How did you relationship with Jesus change from that point forward? 
  5. (28:11) How did wheelchair rugby become a part of your life?
  6. (39:48) You are training for the Tokyo ParaOlympics, how do you keep your walk with Jesus and your family priority in the midst of such intense training?
  7. (47:09) What would you like to say to someone listening who has experienced a life altering accident?

Quotes to Remember:

“My hands are behind my head. Kyle accidentally hits the bottom of the river….the chair broke, I flew backwards, hit my head on the front of the boat and instantly broke my neck at the C6/7 level.”

” ‘Joe, you’ve sustained a spinal cord injury and we need to medflight you up to the bigger hospital to have surgery.’ And that’s when life drastically changed.”

“And really what had transpired was that verse on my wall [Proverbs 3:5-6], started to change my heart.”

“We have to allow ourselves to let God have our heart.”

“I remember my first practice and my lungs filling up with air and and getting hot, I can’t sweat because of my injury, but you’re getting hot….I remember…driving back down to Winona and saying to April, ‘That was amazing….I ended up setting goals and ended up making the [rugby] team in 2012 to go to the London Paralympics where we won bronze.”

“I don’t think I was the leading like I should have been. I was leading for an outcome not leading to serve other people on my team….2016 rolls around, I ended up not making the team.”

“In that moment, I realized it doesn’t matter if I’ve got medals hanging on my wall, or I’m a gold medalist, or a Paralympian, or have the best job….We need to start from the top. Because it gets powerful. When you say I’m a child of God. I am who God says I am.”

“Stop going outside your four walls and start living inside your four walls. So for me, first and foremost, I need to make sure that my relationship with my wife is not only good, but rock solid.”

“It took me a long time to realize that my miracle was choosing to get in the chair.”

“My miracle was a spiritual transformation that was taking place by giving my heart to Jesus.”

“My success isn’t defined by a gold medal. It’s defined by a permanent victory in Jesus.”

Scripture References

Resources Mentioned:

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Joe, you've sustained a spinal cord injury. My life drastically changed
It took me a long time to realize that my miracle was choosing to get in that chair.
my success isn't defined by a gold medal. It's defined by a permanent victory in Jesus.

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