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Eric LeGrand gesture: Buccaneers sign paralyzed player

May 03, 2012|By Sam Farmer
  • Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand is greeted by then-coach Greg Schiano, right, in 2011.
Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand is greeted by then-coach Greg… (Mark R. Sullivan / Home News…)

The NFL is a business... almost always.

But every so often, an organization shows a different side.

Tampa Bay did that Wednesday, signing former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in a 2010 game. He played for Greg Schiano at the time, new coach of the Buccaneers.

"It came out of nowhere," said LeGrand, who lives in a New Jersey apartment with his mother while a wheelchair-accessible house is being built nearby. He vows he will eventually walk again. His latest accomplishment is sitting upright for 15 minutes.

"He actually called my mom up on Monday night and told her. Didn't tell me until Tuesday, probably around 1 o'clock. Told me about this whole thing he was going to do. I was like, `Are you serious? You really want to use this on me?' He goes, `It's the least we can do.'

"I was like, `I don't even know what to say, Coach. This is amazing. Thank you.' This is something I always dreamed about, going to the NFL and retire and become a sportscaster. Now you know dreams do come true."

The contract is merely symbolic, of course, meaning LeGrand will not be paid by the organization. The Buccaneers will send him a helmet, jersey and contract to sign.

LeGrand, who recently signed with IMG, has done some broadcasting work on college football and has met with ESPN.

LeGrand was injured Oct. 16, 2010, in a game against Army during his junior year. He sustained two fractured vertebrae and serious damage to his spinal cord. Although he was initially told he would be a quadriplegic and would be confined to a ventilator, he resumed breathing on his own five weeks after the injury. Later, he was able to stand upright with the help of a metal frame.

"Leading up to the draft, I couldn't help but think that this should've been Eric's draft class," Schiano said in a news release. "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."


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