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. Ken

    I am impressed by his progress. To have the type of injury where they think the person will be a quadriplegic yet he keeps improving so he's now to the point he can stand upright on his own (with the help of a metal frame) is amazing. Hopefully he will reach his goal, to return to the spot on the field where he was injured, lie down, and get up and walk away.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JulieAnn

    Oh god... who cut all these onions at work?!

    May 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TP703

    What a classy move!

    May 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      Godbless really good people in the world.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lena

    God bless this man and I hope he's able to walk again. People are really brave making rude comments behind a computer screen but the reality is anyone of us could become handicapped in a terrible accident on our way home from work today. Be thankful for your good health and learn to show some compassion.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anonymous

    Seriously, please don't think I'm trying to exclude the guy from football, but seeing as how he's paralyzed already, wouldn't it be...you know, dangerous for his health to be out on the field where he could possibly be injured even worse?

    May 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • name

      respectable troll. 7.5/10

      May 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • stev

      Did you even read the article? He isn't playing...

      May 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      if you actually read the article, it says the offer is only honorary..he wont be playing...

      May 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • irongoat81

      dude that is FUNNY...!!! LOLOLOL...

      May 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steelstrings

    Great story!! Would be amazing if he got to play in the NFL!! Curiously posted at the top of the page right above The Saints Hit Man Scandal CNN.. "Ya see world, we really are great guys at here The NFL "...

    May 2, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan

    Pure Class!! Congrads to the Bucs!!

    May 2, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC Statehood

      Its great to see class being displayed once again in the NFL. Bravo, Tampa bay.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SimpleSobriquet

    They ought to play him, probably help their weak team next season.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tribecagal

    You'd think by now Eric LeGrand might have come to the conclusion that since it was football that left him paralyzed perhaps a career educating students on the dangers in contact sports or rehabilitating victims of spinal injuries would be a better goal than being a football broadcaster. But, good luck to him in whatever he does.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matthew Marchalk

      So according to your philosophy anyone who gets injured in a car accident should take a career in giving lectures about how dangerous automobiles are; and just give up thier dreams? Sorry but your an idiot. Your not alone, there are dozens of people who posted ignorant, insensitive comments on here and I imagine the vast majority of you who have; live pitiful, meaningless existences and if your dropped dead tomorrow; few would probably care. It is obvious you people do not have values that people cherish and will miss when they are taken away from thier lives.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. hnm3246

    Those of you who choose to try to find the potential downside to this story (PR ploy, etc) are what's wrong with the world today. Just read the story, take it at face value, and go on with your miserable, cynical lives. I hope none of you ever wind up in a wheelchair and have someone do something nice for you.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jymbeau

    I'm a life-long Bucs fan and I was skeptical about Schiano. I'm not anymore. What a class act.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joe Fattal

    That's nice of them. But what is he going to do?.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • j0eschm0e

      Theres nothing he can do, only to go on and do what he can with what life that he has outside of the field. It was symbolic only.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cyndii

    Good to know there are still some good people in the world.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Matthew Marchalk

    Both the coach and this player are an inspiration. Reading this story and hearing this young mans outlook on life truly makes me appreciate everything I have to be thankful for instead of dwell on the things I do not have. I wish him the best of luck, I pray this young man does walk again one day soon.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. j0eschm0e

    Some people just read headlines and not the whole story. I felt what is he really going to do on the field? As I read thru the story, signing is only honorary. It was a good gesture. To bring him to the NFL, gave him his dream, even though he wont be able to play.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
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