In what has to be the feel good story of the offseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and possibly the entire NFL, the team held a press conference for former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, who signed with the Bucs as a free agent last month. It was the first time LeGrand got a chance to meet with his new teammates and coaches since being signed on May 2.
The story of the 22-year-old LeGrand is a heartfelt one. Once a standout defensive player with the Scarlet Knights under then head coach Greg Schiano, LeGrand saw his football career end abruptly in 2010 when he suffered a serious spinal cord injury during a game.
Despite his life changing drastically, LeGrand has had a positive attitude throughout his entire recovery process, which is why Schiano considers LeGrand to be such an inspiration to others.
"Through this whole time I got to know his mother (Karen LeGrand) really, really well," Schaino said. "She is as tough a lady as you have ever met. You can see that this is her son. I can remember many times being in the hospital with Eric and the things that he would say to me would blow me away. The kind of selfless guy that he is, worried about me [and] worried about his mom. Meanwhile he is lying in the bed with tubes coming out of his mouth and can’t move. Still to this day as he works painstakingly to recover, he tells me and tells those people that he is influencing that this all happened for a reason. He can have an effect on other people and be an inspiration to other people. I don’t know if this happened to me if I could be the man that Eric is. So as I look at guys and I look at people that should be referred to as heroes, this guy is in my book a true hero and a true inspiration."
Schiano has stayed really close to LeGrand since the injury. After becoming the Bucs head coach, Schaino wanted to do what he could to make LeGrand's dream of making the NFL come true.
"I want thank coach and the whole Tampa Bay organization for even thinking about this whole idea of picking me up and making my dream come true of being in the NFL," LeGrand said. "I’ve been playing this game since I was five years old and my whole goal was making it to the NFL. When that accident happened in 2010, it all just stopped then. Laying on the field, I didn’t know if I was going to die and that was going to be the end of my life. But you know, it really shows that good things happen to good people and me being the person I am, I wasn’t going to let doctors tell me that this was going to happen – just a bunch of negative stuff. I was just going to fight and be the person that I am and get to where I want to get to."
LeGrand attended the Bucs' morning organized team activity on Tuesday and gave a speech to his teammates afterwards.
"I finally got to meet my team today," said LeGrand. "It was great to talk to those guys and see how intense they were just actually listening to me talking. These are NFL guys right here, making money playing the game that they love. They were just so in tune to meeting me and seeing them, that really just kept me going through their smiling and just seeing them so in tune to my story and being focused on everything that’s going on through this whole situation. It’s just a pro-grade organization down here, as I continue to fight and get better every single day."
While he obviously won't be playing, that won't stop LeGrand from being with his teammates. He plans to visit them throughout the summer and he will be at Raymond James Stadium for the Bucs' opener against the Carolina Panthers.
LeGrand also said that his no. 52 jersey will be available for fans to purchase and that proceeds will go to the Eric LeGrand Foundation to support spinal cord research. Fans looking to purchase a jersey can do so at the team's online shop at buccaneers.com.
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