The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were more than happy to oblige.
Earlier this week, the Bucs went and signed Eric LeGrand to their 90-man off season roster, a move that may not be all that surprising, until you find out the condition LeGrand is in.
You see, Eric LeGrand is in a wheelchair and is paralyzed. He has been since October 16, 2010 when his Rutgers Scarlet Knights were playing a football game against Army and LeGrand suffered a debilitating spinal injury after tackling kick returner Malcolm Brown at the old Giants Stadium. The injury left him paralyzed from the neck down.
First year Tampa coach Greg Schiano was on the field that day as the head coach of Rutgers and he witnessed first-hand the sight of one of his student-players being carted of the field with doctors telling him the he would never come off the ventilator that was attached to him in the hospital. But what the doctors never counted on was LeGrand’s fighting spirit, and from the moment of the accident, his will and determination to beat the odds has been on full display. Five weeks ago, he was off the ventilator. And now, he’s determined to prove to those people who said that he will never walk again that they were wrong too.
In a move that’s as unprecedented as it is heart-warming, Schiano gave LeGrand the opportunity that was stolen from him on that fateful October day: he gave him a chance to be a part of a professional football team.
On the Tampa Bay Bucs’ official website, Schiano recalled a moment leading up to the draft that this year should have been the class LeGrand would have been a part of. “This small gesture is the least we could do to recognize his character, spirit, and perseverance,” Schiano said.
“The way Eric lives his life epitomizes what we are looking for in Buccaneer Men.”
While LeGrand understands that hey may not be able to play football anymore, that hasn’t weakened his resolve in trying to live a normal life once again. A year after he was injured, LeGrand was already in the early stages of therapy to be able to walk again. LeGrand also told SI.com’s Jon Wetheim that his goal is to go back to Giants Stadium, stand on the very spot where he got hurt, lie down, and get back up.
As for other aspects of his life, LeGrand hasn’t let the injury get in the way of him attaining his degree, resuming his studies via Skype during the university’s 2011 spring semester with plans of earning his degree in labor studies next fall.
But more than just football and school, LeGrand’s injury and his subsequent attitude towards full recovery has become a source of inspiration for a lot of people. SI.com put him on the cover of one of their issues and they voted his story as the 2011 Moment of the Year. In addition, he was also the recipient of the New Jersey Sports Writers Association’s Most Courageous Athlete Award.
Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano has been by LeGrand’s side from the moment of the injury all the way to the young man’s road to recovery. Through all that, Schiano saw the unwavering courage and fighting spirit of this young man. And if signing him to the team’s 90-man offseason roster was the least he could’ve done to show the world LeGrand’s courage and bravery, then sign us up in support of that move.
Eric LeGrand will never be able to play football anymore. But his injury has made him into something more than just a football player; he’s become the kind of inspiration that makes us believe in the power of courage and determination.
Eric LeGrand, you sir, have our respect.