Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Tampa Bay Bucs Sign Eric LeGrand

With news of the BountyGate fallout continuing to come out of New Orleans, it's easy to forget there can be feel good moments in today's NFL.  Despite being at the beginning of a rebuilding process, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to bring a feel good story to us all this morning.  The Bucs announced earlier today they have signed former Rutgers player Eric LeGrand to a free agent deal.

For those who don't know, Eric LeGrand was a player on Rutgers football.  In 2010 during a game against Army LeGrand ran down field to make a play on special teams. After taking a hit, he received what he figured was a stinger.  However, it was far worse, LeGrand fractured his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae and was paralyzed from the neck down.  Doctors were unsure if he would be able to breathe without the aid of a ventilator.  Eric proved them wrong a month latter when they removed his breathing aid. He continued to improve over time, teaching himself to stand with the aid of metal structure, and slowly teaching himself to walk again.

In one of the all time great moments in NCAA football, LeGrand led Rutgers onto the field one year after suffering his injury.

Now as the rest of LeGrand's classmates waiting phone calls from GM's about their status, Eric was left at home knowing his phone would not ring. That was the case til Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano came calling, and offered LeGrand a free agent contract with his new team. Schiano, knew he could attest to the character and the strength LeGrand possesses.  He was his head coach at Rutgers when he was injured and he watched him rehab, and rebuild himself.  Over the last year the two have built a strong relationship. And even though LeGrand may not be able to help out on the field, Schiano understands what an influence he can be in the locker room. An especially important aspect when you consider the Bucs are one of the youngest teams in football, and establishing character and determination will be key in the rebuilding process.

It does not happen all the time, but for now, this is one story that has a happy ending.  All of us here at Walker Sports are happy for Eric LeGrand and his family, and we're proud of Coach Schiano and the Tampa Bay Bucs for stepping up and doing the right thing.

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