May 2nd, 2012
11:11 AM ET

Buccaneers sign paralyzed Rutgers player Eric LeGrand

[Updated at 1:14 p.m. ET] Eric LeGrand's football coach at Rutgers helped him emotionally in the months after his on-field paralysis. Now the coach is symbolically helping him realize his dream of making it to the NFL.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, now coached by ex-Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, announced Wednesday they've signed the former defensive tackle who was partially paralyzed in a 2010 game to their 90-man off-season roster.

Schiano, who joined the Buccaneers this year after more than a decade with Rutgers, offered the symbolic deal to his former player by phone on Tuesday, LeGrand told reporters in a conference call.

"I said, 'Are you serious? You want to use this on me?'" LeGrand said. "(Schiano) said, 'It's the least we can do.'

"Honestly, it's amazing. It really is," he said.

LeGrand collided with an Army kick returner while making a tackle on October 16, 2010, injuring his spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. At the hospital, medical personnel told him he'd be a quadriplegic and would need a respirator for the rest of his life.

But LeGrand progressed, breathing on his own after five weeks. He operates a wheelchair, and he's been able to stand upright with the help of a metal frame. With medical bills covered in part by donations to two foundations, including Rutgers' Eric LeGrand Believe Fund, and he says his ultimate goal is to walk again. He told Sports Illustrated in November that he wanted to return to the spot on the field where he was injured, lie down, and get up and walk away.

November 2011: 'Do not sweat the small stuff,' LeGrand tells HLN

He returned to the Rutgers field in his wheelchair twice: on October 29, leading his team onto the gridiron, and on November 19 for Senior Day festivities before the Scarlet Knights' win against Cincinnati.

LeGrand, who intends to graduate from Rutgers in the fall and hopes to pursue a career in football broadcasting, said Wednesday the signing is only honorary and no money is involved. The team is sending him a jersey with his No. 52 - expected to arrive at his New Jersey apartment this week - and he already has posted to Facebook a picture of him with a Buccaneers helmet.

Schiano said that heading into last week's NFL draft, he "couldn't help but think that this should've been Eric's draft class."

"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," Schiano said in a Buccaneers news release Wednesday.

LeGrand had hopes of making it to the NFL as a player. He had 60 tackles - 11 for a loss - 2.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries in 31 games before his injury as a junior.

He's not sure whether the Buccaneers have any non-playing role in mind for him. He says he appreciates the gesture from Schiano, who he says has been "like a father to me." The coach had talked to him almost weekly and also keeps in  touch with his family, LeGrand said.

"(Schiano had taught me that) when you're faced with adversity, to not back down. ... He helped me and my whole situation," LeGrand said.

And now, symbolically at least, he's following his coach to the pros.

2011: Texas Rangers draft paralyzed Georgia outfielder

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Filed under: College football • Florida • Football • New Jersey • Pro football • Sports
soundoff (341 Responses)
  1. Scott

    what a nice story. Legrand I wish you a full recovery, never underestime the powers of the human body. I

    May 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Richard

    I hope they find something profitable for him to do, like post-play analyst so he doesn't just appear as some kind of figure head.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Marlin

    Finally.. a (former) college coach doing the right thing again.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Scott

    underestimate*

    May 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. betterdays

    Superb from every angle. Best news I've heard all day.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Marlin

    Who said anything about him not preparing for the day he wouldnt be able to play. Who said anything about his grades. He was paralyzed for Christ's sake and now your pointing the finger at imagined failings on his part? Get a life.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • dw

      im on ur side, but you lost me by capitalizing Christ. if you believe in an imaginary guy in the sky ur obviously off ur rocker!

      May 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • winwin

      Christ is not an imaginary guy in the sky. His spirit of peacefulness, kindness, strength and overcoming adversities are good charateristics. His spirit lives inside of you if you will quietly acknowledge it.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • SearchingForAnAtheistExtremist

      It's wonderful that you feel that way, but can't you allow others to have their own opinions and beliefs?

      May 2, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duce

      Mmmmm... Not so much. Don't need fairy tales to live a happy, productive life with morals...

      May 2, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Just wondering....

    if Obama had a son...would it look just like him?

    May 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Idiot

      May 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Treyvon Prince

      You are so shallow in mind and thinking. I am reading this story in tears and you and a idiot like you is incorporating racial remarks about the story. If you have nothing to do, go find a Bridge and jump off.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sam

    Very classy move, Coach Schiano.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Semper fi

    Great job Bucs! More of this with each NFL Team would be great.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Stephanie

    What a wonderful story to read this morning. Glad to see there are still some great people out there willing to do good things for deserving people.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gracie

    I think this is a sweet act on coach. I know myself as well as other Rutgers' season ticket holders were sad to see Greg leave but to do something that sweet for a player needs to be given praise. Hopefully, once Eric graduates, Greg will be able to get him a "paying" job with the Bucs in media. Best of luck to Eric, Greg, and the whole Bucs organization!

    May 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sean

    was a jet fan, and after seeing this, im putting all the futility behind me and cheering for a class act individual who knows what is right. go bucs go.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. get educated

    This kid has been given the gift of an education from Rutgers University. Now that he shouldn't be distracted by football, will he actually graduate with an education that will allow him to thrive economically despite his physical handicap? It doesn't look that way. The gift of a wonderful educational opportunity doesn't always result in people seizing that opportunity. LeGrand, I really do feel sorry for you. It's time to develop your brain.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      I'm not sure what you mean. I don't know the intimate details of this situation, just what I have heard previously and what I have read in this article. It says that he intends to graduate from Rutgers this coming fall. Considering the time he must have lost in rehabilitation, graduating a semester or two late is still quite an accomplishment!

      May 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duane

      A big comment from someone who has no idea of what this young man is doing in his life now or planning for his future. How about just being happy for the kind gesture from his former coach and leave it at that.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • KJ

      To the person who commented that they don't think this man will get educated and seek a career after his injury, DID YOU EVEN READ THE ARTICLE? It said he plans to graduate this fall and is looking forward to a career in broadcasting. For someone who seems so concerned about education, you don't appear to care much about reading.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • dr2bee

      He is actually a senior and will be graduating.

      May 2, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. john

    praise Jehovah God for life is precious anything can happen at anytime

    May 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeah Buddy!

      Amen! Many times we overlook the smaller blessings in life, but it is through those that God interacts with us every day!

      May 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Steve Garza

    Have to agree with Jeff, very classy move by a good Coach! Wish there were more like you Coach!

    May 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
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