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. NationEarth

    Let's all just take this for what it is. He didn't earn it because he couldn't. So what. He isn't rejecting it because, get this, not everyone is obsessed with ideology. This is what he has always wanted. I'm sure all of you have had someone do something kind for you, even if you didn't earn it or deserve it, just because they wanted to. Just read the story... it's just football... not everything is a conspiracy!

    May 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SS Von Kluger

    What's the hold up jive turkeys?

    May 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. J-Pap

    Sandra Bullock just refused to star in this movie so it's wide open now!

    May 2, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. p-zombie

    Of COURSE it was the Bucs. There are some great people in that organization. Congrats LeGrand! Get ready to decimate hahaha

    May 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jim beam

    cant wait to see what that paycheck is going to be for sitting on the sidelines. lets start putting some of these high end salaries in the mouths of US workers instead!

    May 2, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • humanbean

      Hey idiot! They're not paying him anything. Hopefully there will be plenty of people around to support you if you ever have the unfortunate event that paralyzes you. How bout we stick a big red ball gag in your mouth?

      May 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chris

    Gimme a break (pun intended). What kind of emotional manipulation is going on here? Let's see...someone is paralyzed from playing football in college, so let's sign him to the NFL and help his dream of rough body contact come true. The dumbing down of America continues. Why not just delete the sport from existence? You can get rid of boxing, too, while your at it. Now that would be impressive. More so than this hypocrisy.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jess

      "You're" very critical. You should learn the difference between "you're" versus "your."

      May 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laderagrrl

      Better I should go through life 'dumbed down' than be burdened with a heart of stone. I hope life turns better for you,

      May 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shameus

      Go play chess then.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      If you dont like the sports, dont pay attention. Go watch a non contact sport like swimming. Its people like you that we should get rid of.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cookin

      Coach Schiano - this is way kool - as a lifelong Bucs Fan now living in KY - I am looking forward to seeinh him on the sidelines in a Bucs Jersey - you sir have brought some additional class back to the team and the sport in general - Coach Schiano - I wish you the best in the upcoming season..

      May 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      That was quite possibly the most ignorant comment I've ever seen online

      May 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • justageek

      Sounds like you were the last kid picked in gym class.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • GATORpride

      You are a total and complete imbecile. Get a life.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • ruf99

      Did you even read the article? He was an honorary sign. Meaning he is not going to play but he will be on the roster going into the offseason. He still hasn't even fully recovered. If he did recover and miraculously was still able to play football again, then it should be his choice if he wants to play football not yours. I think it was a very admirable thing that the coach did for him.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Mind your own business if you have such an uncontrollable urge to be confrontational. Downplaying a paralyzed man while ridiculing a few pasttimes? What's your post for anyway?

      May 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • P

      You sound like the guy who was always picked last for the kickball squad.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Myron

    Question how can the guy be lazy, you idiot he's a quadripligic.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. steven

    If you don't like sports go jump in front of a bus because noone gives a damn what you have to say.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laderagrrl

      Be nice. Chris has enough of a burden going through life so angry and bitter.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. FeelBadFor91stMan

    It's a kind gesture, but unless the NFL granted an exemption, doesn't this take up a roster spot? Because of this move, someone else (who didn't get hurt playing for the coach while in college) has their dream, to play in the NFL and actually compete for a spot on a team, denied. With limited roster spots, it's a zero-sum game.

    To the coach, this is just one slot on a 90 man roster. To that one man left off, it could be a chance at making an NFL team. I feel bad for Eric. What happened to him sucks, but this feels like charity at someone else's expense.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harry

      Yes it takes a lot but they cut almost 1/3 before preseason. then a week before regular season they cut another 15 players.

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

      It was "symbolic" .... he isn't getting paid and he isn't taking anyone's spot!

      May 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shameus

      It kind of is, but that 90th spot usually isn't occupied by someone who actually plays in the games (although it COULD be). They can always sign someone to the practice squad.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chrissy

    Its a class act move liek that that will win this coach a bunch of fans at his new home with the Bucs. He seems liek just what our organization needs...a shot in the arm of real character that will rally the team and the fans again! Its being a good guy that will win us over...just like why so many people love Alstott to this day...a class act and a good guy. We WANT to be able to root for the good guys! And now he's making it easy for us to fall in love with the new coach! Go Bucs!

    May 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hugo

    The NFL should allow 90 + 1 player on the roster if the +1 player will almost certainly never play.

    It's a classy move none the less. Just with the NFL would step up too.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • snottykid

      90 people will not be on the final roster...he will be cut before the season begins.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sabrina

    I think this is a great story. I'm not a Tampa fine either but this makes me see them in a different light. Congrats to Coach Schiano!

    May 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cookin

      Coach Schiano – this is way kool – as a lifelong Bucs Fan now living in KY – I am looking forward to seeing him on the sidelines in a Bucs Jersey – you sir have brought some additional class back to the team and the sport in general – Coach Schiano – I wish you the best in the upcoming season

      May 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tameka

    Shows class....thinking of others. He woke up one morning and decided to help someone out! A+++++

    May 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. hozo1

    awesome move ... what a great way to mark what would haves been his draft year ... not a Tampa Bay fan but love this gesture for a fine young man ...

    May 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Olaf Big

    This is actually a sick publicity trick. He got paralyzed on the field playing football! Don't give me that syrupy stuff that he got injured doing what he loved and now he is honored by his peers. He was in a big money game and he lost. If the team wants to do something good on his behalf, they should donate a couple of millions to spinal cord injury research.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shameus

      Bitter much? Don't be mad because you couldn't make your JV team in high school. Get back to your job flipping burgers since your break must be over by now.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
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