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Paralyzed Former Rutgers Player Signs with Buccaneers

Former Rutger's DT gets signed to Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Noah K. Murray/The Star Ledger

An inspiration, a “symbolic gesture” and a dream come true…

Eric LeGrand gets drafted to the NFL.

With the NFL picks in full affect after this past week’s draft, the 90th and final pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was left empty until early Tuesday morning.

Head coach Greg Schiano left this spot open for a special someone, a person who left jaws hanging and hearts broken back in October of 2010, Rutgers defensive tackle, Eric LeGrand.

Schiano, who coached LeGrand at Rutgers, used his final roster spot for his former defensive lineman, whose football career ended prematurely during a game against Army on Oct. 16, 2010, when he suffered fractures of two vertebrae and a serious spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed.

Schiano made a surprise call to LeGrand on Tuesday morning. It was just a normal day for LeGrand, as it was routine of Schiano to call LeGrand (the two spoke on a weekly basis). Although LeGrand had no idea, Schiano called Karen LeGrand, Eric’s mom, the night before and filled her in on what would go down the next morning. Karen promised to keep the secret.

“I’m bad at keeping secrets, so I told him to call Eric right away in the morning,” she said.

When the call came in on Tuesday morning, Karen kept her distance, but couldn’t help but to eavesdrop on her son’s call in the other room.

 “I knew it was coming so I was listening in,” she said. “And I heard Eric say, ‘Are you serious, coach? Really? No, you’re not serious.’”

The 21-year-old said, “I said I don’t even know what to say to you right now, coach. This is amazing.”

“This small gesture is the least we could do to recognize his character, spirit, and perseverance. The way Eric lives his life epitomizes what we are looking for in Buccaneer Men,” said Schiano.

This NFL draft is the year that would have been Eric’s draft class.

LeGrand was initially told he would likely spend his life as a quadriplegic and on a ventilator. Within five weeks of the injury, he resumed breathing on his own and then was able to stand upright with the help of a metal frame.

Since his accident, LeGrand has been able to stand and walk on a treadmill, with assistance, and he has vowed to walk on his own one day. A broadcasting major at the New Jersey school, LeGrand resumed his studies in the 2011 spring semester, via video conferences. He has also done some sportscasting for the school.

Since LeGrand’s college number, 52, is available on the Tampa Bay team, he will get that number. His jersey, helmet and contract are on its way to LeGrand’s Woodbridge home.

Other than inspiration, motivation and what many are calling a “symbolic gesture,” LeGrand’s position will be sportscaster for the team.

 “It’s something I always dreamed about, go to the NFL and retire and become a sportscaster,” said LeGrand.

Because the contract is ceremonial, no money is involved but for LeGrand signing with the Buccanears is much more than money. It’s about an NFL dream coming true.

“Dreams do come true if you really believe. You do the right things in life, good things happen to you. He really just did this out of the kindness of his heart. It’s really what he wanted to do. I had no idea this was going to happen,” said LeGrand.

Before LeGrand’s traumatic accident in 2010, LeGrand lived for football. Schiano, someone very close to LeGrand, gave him the opportunity to continue living for football proving that football isn’t over after the season is over.

LeGrand was an inspiration to teammates and fans before his accident but throughout this experience, he became a national inspiration. LeGrand’s unyielding optimism and ever-present smile has influenced the lives of thousands of people.

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Discussion

3 comments for “Paralyzed Former Rutgers Player Signs with Buccaneers”

  1. Wow unbelievable, this story needs national coverage. It hit home. These are the type of stories that make you appreciate football

    Posted by Al | May 4, 2012, 1:17 pm
  2. That’s my girl

    Posted by Glen Cannici | May 4, 2012, 4:57 pm
  3. What an excellent writer Marisa is! Shoot for the stars Marisa!!!!

    Posted by Tammy | May 4, 2012, 5:35 pm

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