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 inΒ  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. ron

    There are some absolute mindless, arrogant, heartless, stupid, ignorant people posting on these pages.
    Maybe in the future the computer will be able to automatically delete these idiots before they are posted.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lib

    This is what makes me believe that the majority of Americans are decent humanitarians. What an inspiring story. It makes you forget about the hateful comments we usually read. God Bless!

    May 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. SkyKing

    You'd think that someone would accompany the 'token' honorary signing with a few 10s of grand to him or the Believe Fund. It's not like the coach or others earning millions couldn't afford it.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Face the facts

      It's not Schiano's to give.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • acts431

      This is a nice symbollic gesture, but I am constantly amazed at the lack of generosity of wealthy American individuals and corporations. What a missed opportunity to REALLY SIGN this young man - complete with a generous contract, which would make his life so much easier. But, I'm sure they need the money to buy some new skimpy, see-through cheerleader outfits, so they can reach an all-time high in gate revenues and make even more $$$.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • The hard truth

      Times are hard and even millionaire coaches and players gotta watch their budge, besides he didnt do anything to be paid, he just sits their all day on his lazy butt.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Javajoe

    In spite of all the irritating racist, anti-religious, anti- atheist, anti-gay, political spewing comments, etc., it's worth popping into to CNN News for a dash of inspiration and a renewed belief that there's enough good and compassionate people
    in this world. A good cup of coffee and news like this powers me through the day. Go Buccaneers ! Winners!

    May 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aubrie

      I wholeheartedly agree!!!!

      May 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • HorizonLLM

      I agree, it's finally nice to see it. Even though it is only a gesture, it was still generous.
      Unfortunate that now follow-up donation was made but it's a step in the right direction – a step in the right direction for all the wealthy individuals out there in society who do not really give back in action only words.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. d2blondee

    Not only do you show your brainpower in your ocmment but also in your spelling.......fool. So hateful

    May 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      Don't feed the trolls, it only encourages them.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JustGreat

    More feel good shlock to keep you guys occupied while your future is stolen from you by the powers that be

    May 2, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom O

      The powers that be are stealing the future?! This sounds like a job for the Avengers!

      May 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • oussu

      The powers that be stole our future two or three decades ago. We're just feeling it now. We need the feel good story to distract us from the knowledge that they already took it and we didn't know it at the time.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crys

      @JustGreat You must be a real hit at parties...

      May 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lone

      Right because the news doesn't already dole out enough of realities woe and want. Take what positivity comes you way. But just to throw you a paranoid bone to gnaw on, If you're worried about what's being taken from you then it is probably long gone.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • The hard truth

      Who are these powers you speak of...I need names and my future is waht I make of it, really hard to steal that.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. abudum

    What a great story about a good guy and a great coach. Greg Schiano ought to be Time magazine's person of the year for 2012.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      last year the rangers and astros Drafted paralysed baseball players....where was the press on that?
      i dont schiano did anything that special to deserve man of the year. the bucs are paying for this. not him

      May 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • The hard truth

      Still too many rumours of his preference for underaged girls for that to happen.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lale

    Congratulations to Mr. LeGrand! I've been following him on Facebook, and his optimism is inspiring. Where can I get my LeGrand jersey?!

    May 2, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Grant L

    Nice Gesture Mr Schiano! You have earned my respect.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will

      What they should do is keep him on the roster, put him on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list and keep him as a buccaneer for 10+ years or so. If they don't, they will end up having to "cut" him before the season and it was all for naught. They should also find a way to sign him for the league minimum, have him in the team pics and all. I like this story. The only thing I don't like is the tempoary symbolism. Let's make it permanent....

      May 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. matthew

    Shake and Bacon. Good news story. . .

    May 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe

    That is great! Just please don't take skittles and tea to the field

    May 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • The hard truth

      Skittles and tea are fine to bring, but dont attack anyone for no reason and sell drugs and be a thug.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Fiona

    I hope parents hold this in their minds when they encourage their kids to pursue football seriously. If a strong and talented athlete can be so injured on a college football field, where the rules are more protective of players, Think of the possible damage at the NFL level. All those concussions are red flags that the sport is too violent.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Me

    Very classy of Tampa Bay and coach Schiano to do this for Eric LeGrand. Very classy move.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. x277

    Great story, I sincerely hope he walks again. I hate seeing players injured; especially like this. I was so glad that Kevin Everett (Bills), Dennis Bryd (Jets) was able to walk again hopefully LeGrand will be able to do the same on day.

    His goal "to return to the spot on the field where he was injured, lie down, and get up and walk away." would be great and I'm pulling for him that he is able to do just this.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • WVU

      Amen...I also hope he walks again and soon!!!!! Nice story...but some cash would be nice too coach?? take 50k from what you make, it will still be millions!! πŸ™‚

      May 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. cali

    What a great story about a person who believed in himself and a coach who was there to help! Why do we always have to look further into a good story and just feel good about it! We are far too cynical!

    May 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • The hard truth

      Publicity stunts....thats all these gestures ever are..Is that too cynical? Oh well its the truth.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
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