NBC New York
Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, paralyzed nearly two years ago during a game at the Meadowlands, accomplished his life's dream -- getting signed by an NFL team. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by his former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, signed him symbolically. Brian Thompson reports on his plans and the emotional occasion.
Paralyzed defensive tackle Eric LeGrand has been symbolically signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
LeGrand broke two vertebrae and suffered a serious spinal cord injury on Oct. 16, 2010 during a kickoff return against Army. His coach at Rutgers then, Greg Schiano, now is coach of the Bucs.
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 became an inspiration to teammates at Rutgers, eventually being able to stand upright with the help of a metal frame. He resumed his studies via video conferences for the 2011 spring semester, and on Oct. 29, 2011, led the Scarlet Knights onto the field before a game. He also has done some broadcast work for the school.
Schiano called the signing a "small gesture ... to recognize his character, spirit and perseverance."
"The way Eric lives his life epitomizes what we are looking for in Buccaneer Men," Schiano, who left Rutgers for Tampa Bay in January, said in a statement released by the Bucs.
The coach said he couldn't help but think about LeGrand while preparing for last week's NFL draft.
The defensive tackle would have been a senior last season and may well have been a selection if hadn't been injured during his junior year.
"It's a symbolic gesture. They can't give me any money with the salary cap and all that kind of stuff," LeGrand said. "It's symbolic, something coach wanted to do and I appreciate that. It just shows the man that he is."
LeGrand is on pace to graduate from Rutgers in the fall and hopes to pursue a career in broadcasting. He said he has not spoken with Schiano about a possible role within the Buccaneers organization in the future.