Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano wanted to honor a former player by signing him to an NFL contract. The fact that he was paralyzed from the neck down made no difference.
Schiano signed his former defensive tackle Eric LeGrand to an NFL contract as a symbolic gesture to the player who would've been a senior this past season.
“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.”
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“I was in shock. All my friends asked me if I was going to be drafted. I told them I think they all need to be worried about their other picks,” LeGrand said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “[Schiano] called me Monday and he just said ‘We’re picking you.’ At first we had just started talking. I want to draft you and pick you up as a free agent. I was just like ‘Really? You’re just going to waste a pick? You have a 90-man roster. You’re going to pick me as that?’ And he said yes, this is something they want to do. He’d talked to the GM, he’d talked to everybody.”
LeGrand was paralyzed on a special teams play in October 2010 against Army. LeGrand has made big strides since he was told in the immediate aftermath of the injury that he would need to be on a ventilator for the rest of his life. He is now breathing on his own and working on standing with assistance for short periods of time.
LeGrand even led his former team on the field against West Virginia this past season.
He will graduate from Rutgers this fall.
“I’ve got to get this degree. I signed with IMG. I’m working with my agent. He’s been working with me, trying to figure out where we’re going to go in the future,” LeGrand said. “We just got my book deal. That’s going to come out in the August or September area, so I’m really excited about that.”
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.