NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Eric LeGrand steadfastly believes he will one day walk again. On Tuesday, LeGrand’s other dream finally came true.
Welcome to the NFL, Eric.
1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr Reports From Rutgers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed LeGrand, an inspiration to many battling spinal cord injuries, to their 90-man offseason roster.
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The former Rutgers player hasn’t walked since October 16, 2010, when he was paralyzed from the neck down at the Meadowlands against Army. He has worked tirelessly at rehab, and even tweeted a photo last July in which he was pictured standing with the assistance of a machine.
Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, who recruited and coached LeGrand at Rutgers, said the 21-year-old “epitomizes what we are looking for in Buccaneer Men.”
“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.”
And it’s a moment of pride for his mom, Karen, who’s been with her son through his heartbreaking injury and recovery.
“This kind of makes up for it, it really does,” Karen LeGrand said. “Because now he has that feeling, he knows what it’s like to be signed.”
LeGrand was a junior when he suffered the devastating injury.
“It’s a symbolic gesture. They can’t give me any money with the salary cap and all that kind of stuff,” LeGrand said during a conference call Wednesday. “It’s symbolic, something coach wanted to do and I appreciate that. It just shows the man that he is.”
LeGrand has remained positive through it all. He resumed taking college courses via Skype while working as a member of Rutgers’ radio broadcast team, inching closer toward his goal of a degree in labor studies.
“It’s something I always dreamed about, go to the NFL and retire and become a sportscaster,” he said. “Dreams do come true if you really believe. You do the right things in life, good things happen to you. [Schiano] 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.”
The celebrated Sports Illustrated cover boy hasn’t wavered from the belief that he’ll one day revisit the site of his injury and lie down on the exact spot for a moment. And then he plans to get up and walk away.
“Some people you walk by, they start clapping,” LeGrand told WFAN’s Boomer & Carton in December. “Some people actually take pictures. It’s just like they treat you on a higher level of respect because they know what I’m going through every day of my life just trying to get back on my feet.
“And I really appreciate that I don’t get disrespected at all, I don’t get looked down upon because I’m in a chair right now. It’s just like a higher level of respect that they treat me with. And I really appreciate it all because without them I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.”
LeGrand has already been pictured with his new team helmet, and he said that more Tampa Bay gear is on the way. No. 52, the number that he donned at Rutgers, will be his number with Tampa Bay.
Congrats, Eric! Leave your well-wishes for LeGrand in the comments below…