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May 2, 2012 @ 9:11 am
Current rating: 4.00 Stars/1 Votes

Bucs Sign Paralyzed DT LeGrand As Goodwill Gesture

Written by Scott
Reynolds
Scott Reynolds

Scott
Reynolds

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The Buccaneers and head coach Greg Schiano made a classy move by signing paralyzed Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand to fill Tampa Bay's final roster spot. The signing is symbolic in nature and LeGrand was honored by Schiano's gesture.
On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed defensive tackle Eric LeGrand from Rutgers University, where he played in 31 games for Bucs head coach Greg Schiano. During his time with the Scarlet Knights, he recorded 60 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries, before his playing career ended prematurely.

On October 16, 2010, in a game against Army during his junior season, LeGrand suffered fractures of two vertebrae and a serious spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed. Despite being told that he would be a quadriplegic and resigned to a ventilator, LeGrand persevered and a mere five weeks after the injury, resumed breathing on his own. Later, he even became able to stand upright with the help of a metal frame.

No, LeGrand won’t be on the 53-man roster. He is still paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair. And there won’t be any salary to count against the Bucs’ salary cap. This is a symbolic gesture that Schiano wanted to do for his former player.

“Leading up to the draft, I couldn’t help but think that this should’ve been Eric’s draft class,” said Coach Schiano. “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.”

LeGrand grew up a Denver Broncos fan, but is obviously now a huge fan of the Buccaneers.

“I will always have love for the Broncos, but after this, it really shows something with Coach Schiano with how he had this whole thing planned out,” LeGrand said. “It’s really great. I’m not really sure [if I’ll have a role with the team]. We talked about doing this, but we’ll see what we have in store and what we have planned. I think it was a great idea by him, the G.M. and everyone in that organization to put me as the last man on the roster. It’s incredible.

“I was like, ‘Are you serious? You really want to use this on me?’ He said, ‘It’s the least that we can do.’ I said, ‘Coach, I don’t even know what to say right now. This is amazing.’ It was something I’ve always dreamed of – going to the NFL and retire to become a sportscaster. Dreams can come true if you really believe. If you do the right things in life and good things happen to you. He really did this out of the kindness of his heart.”

The date of the signing LeGrand on May 2 is symbolic due to the fact that LeGrand’s jersey number at Rutgers was 52. LeGrand will also be sent a number 52 jersey and that will be his Buccaneers number through training camp.

“Coach Schiano tries to call me on a weekly basis,” LeGrand said. “Coach Schiano is like a father figure. I was going in to Rutgers as a little boy and I’m coming out a man. He’s the type of person that when you are faced with adversity he’s not going to back down at all. He’s going to make sure you take it [head] on and deal with it. In life you can’t control which cards you are dealt and you just have to deal with them. That’s what helped me in this whole situation.


“It’s hard sometimes when you just want to feed yourself or if you have an itch and you want to scratch it. Sometimes it’s disappointing, but then you think about all the kind of stuff I was taught at Rutgers. It’s not going to last long. That’s what I do. I just go on my daily grind as if I’m preparing for a football game. I don’t know when that football game is going to be, but I’m preparing for it every single day as I go through my rehab.”

LeGrand joins former Rutgers players center Jeremy Zuttah, defensive end George Johnson and newly signed offensive tackle Desmond Wynn on Tampa Bay’s roster.

“It’s cool to have all of us down there,” LeGrand said. “I heard it’s like Rutgers South down there. We have all those Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Rutgers. It’s just our Rutgers brotherhood. It’s our bond together. No matter what we do stuff for each other unconditionally. It’s cool to be back with some of my teammates.”

LeGrand, who resides in Woodbridge, New Jersey with his mother, resumed his studies via video conference during the spring 2011 semester and continued to be an impactful member of the Rutgers football team during his senior year. He made his first return to the football field on October 29, 2011, one year after his injury, leading his team and Head Coach Greg Schiano out onto the field at Rutgers' stadium. LeGrand also joined his fellow seniors on the field for Senior Day festivities prior to kickoff of a win over Cincinnati on November 19.

With the courage and determination shown throughout his rehabilitation, LeGrand's inspirational story has garnered national attention. His return to the football field donned the cover of Sports Illustrated's 2011 year-end issue, as it was voted the magazine's Moment of the Year. LeGrand received the Most Courageous Athlete Award from the New Jersey Sports Writers Association in January and will also receive the Unsung Hero Award at the New Jersey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on June 9 for his representation of courage, strength and character.

“My goal is to walk,” LeGrand said. “I believe this did happen for a reason. My goal is to get up on my feet. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep on fighting. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but I know down the road that it is going to happen. If you believe in yourself and you believe in the Man above – anything is legit and possible.”

LeGrand is planning to graduate next fall with a degree in labor studies and most recently partnered with IMG to help in continuing his broadcasting career. You can follow Eric's remarkable recovery through his Twitter feed, @EricLeGrand52. For more information on LeGrand, visit www.scarletknights.com/Believe/.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 May 2012 10:12
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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    Can't we put him on the PUP list? So he'd still be part of the team!!
  • avatar


    Is it possible to make LeGrand a team captain? How can you not be inspired to follow his lead in hard work and dedication?
  • avatar


    This makes you proud of your team and what it represents to the area! Hope this young man fullfils his desire to do broadcasting. Great!
  • avatar

    Bravo! (standing ovation) It's what we've been missing since Dungy - A sense of family!
  • avatar

    Here's an idea. Bucs should sell his jersey with the proceeds going toward whatever he needs for rehab. I know medical bills are a pain in the backside. If so, put my down for 4 jerseys! GO BUCS!!
  • avatar


    scarface13, Great idea!!!!!
  • avatar


    Greg Schiano is much more than a coach. He's the head of what is becoming a household. His players are more his family than just his team.
  • avatar


    This is an incredible act. I am proud of the BUCS organization for doing this. Our new coach is inspiring and should/can/will make this translate to play on the field. For the first time in many years, I am truly proud of my team. GO BUCS!
  • avatar

    What a stand-up guy! I see nothing but greatness coming to the Bucs for such good deeds. There's nothing like leading by example.
  • avatar


    THIS IS FROM A BUC FAN A VOLUNTEER COACH IN YOUTH SPORTS AND IT JUST SENDS GOOSEBUMBS DOWN MY SPINE. I HOPE THAT THIS YOUNG MAN CAN COME TO SOME OF THE GAMES I HOPE SOME CORPORATION WOULD SPONSOR THIS YOUNG MAN AND THE ENTIRE TEAM OF TAMPA BAY AND THE COMMUNITY IN TAMPA WOULD WELCOME HIM WITH OPEN ARMS. HE IS A HERO AS FAR AS IAM CONCERNED IF THEY NEED MONEY TO SEND HIM DOWN THERE IAM ALL IN. I ALSO KNOW WHAT MY JOB AS A COMBAT MEDIC AND I HAVE SEEN THE HEROES WHO ARE BATTLE OVERCOME DIFFICULTIES. SO ALL YOU WHIMPS CAN GO BY THE SIDE. IAM VERYU FASN OF WHAT THIS NEW COACH HAS DONE. GO BUCS I THINK WHAT I READ HAS REALLY STERRED MYSELF WITH A LOT OF PRIDE. GO BUCS AGAIN.
  • avatar

    Welcome Eric!!! Im Glad your a Tampa Bay Buccaneer!!! Thanks Coach Schiano,Dom and Glazers!!! Great Day to be a Buc Fan!!!
  • avatar

    What a great football story...made my day...
  • avatar


    Great move Bucs! This is the type of gesture that will make fans appreciate the leadership we now have at Tampa Bay. If you are a player, you have to be pumped that this is the guy you will be following into battle with the assurance that he will be there for you. Inspirational story! Go Bucs!
  • avatar


    On the board=> loved the Coach Dungy reference. If only we could be that lucky. If Schiano turns out to be that type of coach, I'll mail Chip Kelly a gallon of fresh squeezed OJ as a thank you. This is a very solid move. An opposite of Paterno move.
  • avatar

    What a FANTASTIC idea !!! That was a classy move by a classy man, glad it is rubbing off on the soon to be classy organization. Hey LeGrand, if you are listening, keep fighting and keep on trying ! ! ! ! ! I am sure that you will achieve your goal someday !! Hats off to you !!
  • avatar


    This is what the Bucs have lacked since coach Dungy was fired: DUTY - HONOR- and above all else R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    Eric, our prayers are with you!
  • avatar


    I believe that most of us want to be proud of our team whether we win or lose and feel good about the team and our community. This is just plain right and I am very happy that we are doing the right thing. Character does matter and Coach Schiano is the leader and it is The Buccaneer Way. There's a lot more to life than just winning; just look at the Saints as an example how not to act. Glad to have you here Eric and now get to work, you've got goals yet to accompolish and I am sure you will contribute to this Team. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    Let's go BUCS!! Cant wait for the season to get started. Coach Schiano is a real leader.
  • avatar

    Love being a Buccaneers fan
  • avatar


    This is the type of team that makes me proud to be a fan.
  • avatar


    Class act! That says a lot about coach Schiano and his character and integrity. So far I have been very impressed with the way in which our new head coach has emphasized and embodied character & leadership, concepts sadly lacking under the previous regime. This latest act seems to reflect everything that coach Schiano is about. Win or lose on the field, it would be impossible not to feel respect and admiration for a coach who himself displays such human decency, dignity and compassion.
  • avatar

    So proud of my Tampa Bay Buccaneers!
  • avatar

    Love this...
  • avatar

    A lot of respect earned from a move like that.
  • avatar


    Little things a coach does says an awful lot about how big a man he truly is!
  • avatar


    Awesome!!!!!!!!
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