Leading up to the draft, I 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.
”— Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano,
on signing Eric LeGrand
LeGrand played for Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers. In a game Oct. 16, 2010, against Army, LeGrand suffered fractures of two vertebrae and a spinal cord injury.
Schiano called LeGrand’s mother in New Jersey to let her know of his intention the night before breaking the news to his former player.
“I said, ‘Are you serious? You want to do this?’ He said: ‘It’s the least we could do,’ ” LeGrand said Wednesday during a conference call. “I said I don’t even know what to say to you right now, coach. This is amazing.
“It’s something I always dreamed about, go to the NFL and retire and become a sportscaster,” LeGrand added. “Dreams do come true if you really believe. You do the right things in life, good things happen to you. He really just did this out of the kindness of his heart. It’s really what he wanted to do. I had no idea this was going to happen.”
LeGrand initially was told he would be a quadriplegic and would have to remain on a ventilator.
Five weeks later, LeGrand began breathing on his own. Later, he became able to stand upright with the aid of a metal frame.
LeGrand resumed his studies in spring 2011. He led the Scarlet Knights onto the field for an Oct. 29, 2011, game and has remained close with Schiano.
“Leading up to the draft, I couldn’t help but think that this should’ve been Eric’s draft class,” Schiano said. “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.”
The Buccaneers also decided to make the signing May 2, to represent LeGrand’s college number (52).
He put up a photo of a Tampa Bay helmet on his Twitter page, tweeting, “We ready!!!”
“It’s a symbolic gesture. They can’t give me any money with the salary cap and all that kind of stuff,” LeGrand said in his conference call. “It’s symbolic, something coach wanted to do and I appreciate that. It just shows the man that he is.”
LeGrand is planning to graduate this fall with a degree in labor studies.