UPDATE (12:45 p.m.): The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed former Rutgers DT Eric LeGrand on Wednesday, adding another chapter to his inspiration recovery from paralysis. The signing came as a pleasant shock to many — including LeGrand.
“It came out of nowhere,” he said during a conference call Wednesday that included the Tampa Bay Tribune. “Coach called my mom Monday night — he didn’t tell me until Tuesday around 1 o’clock and I was like, ‘Are you serious?’
“He said it’s the least we could do. I don’t even know what to say right now. It was always my dream to go to the NFL, reture and become a sportscaster. Dreams really do come true.”
Original Post (10:09 a.m.)...
Eric LeGrand’s remarkable journey back from a horrifying on-field injury in 2010 took another step forward Wednesday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed the former Rutgers defensive tackle.
You read that right. A guy confined to a wheelchair after he was paralyzed on a kickoff return — a guy who hasn’t walked in 19 months — is realizing his dream of making an NFL team.
Initially told he would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life after fracturing two vertebrae and injuring his spinal cord, LeGrand has exceeded every expectation during his long recovery process. Five weeks after the injury, he began breathing on his own, and later he was able to stand upright with the aid of a walker. Last October, he led the Scarlet Knights onto the field for a game — and now he is on an NFL roster.
Tampa Bay chose May 2 as LeGrand’s signing date because his college jersey number was 52.
Best of all, perhaps, is that the signing stunned LeGrand.
This is honestly a blessing from above. I love you all keep following people believe we will make this happen— Eric LeGrand (@EricLeGrand52) May 2, 2012
The Bucs announced the move in a news release on their Web site:
Eric LeGrand is, in his own words, an athlete. Is, not was.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers understand that. On Tuesday, the Buccaneers signed LeGrand to their 90-man offseason roster, adding him to a team full of accomplished athletes.
Why is this remarkable, one roster move during a long offseason of countless team-building maneuvers? Because LeGrand is currently in a wheelchair and hasn't walked in 19 months. On October 16, 2010, he was paralyzed from the neck down while tackling Army kick returner Malcolm Brown in a game played at Giants Stadium.
LeGrand was – and is – a part of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights family. The Buccaneers and especially their head coach, Greg Schiano, understand that. Schiano was the head coach at Rutgers from 2001-11, which means he recruited LeGrand, helped shape him into a young man and a football player and exulted in his successes. And it means he was there when LeGrand fell stiffly to the Giants Stadium turf and didn't get up, and he was there at his hospital bed that evening and he will remain there for every step forward LeGrand takes in his recovery and his life.
Yes, the signing has everything to do with LeGrand’s close relationship with Schiano, who now leads Tampa Bay’s rebuild. But while the cynic might call this favoritism, a true fan of sports should recognize the uplifting power of this simple gesture.
“Leading up to the draft, I couldn’t help but think that this should’ve been Eric’s draft class,” Schiano said in the team’s statement. “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.”
Eric LeGrand may never run on a football field again, but can forever say he was an NFL football player. And for a 21-year-old who has spent nearly two years undergoing grueling physical therapy to regain movement in his body, that’s remarkable.