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Paralyzed football player signed by Tampa Bay Bucs

Scott Levin's picture

Eric LeGrand will never play a down for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but his signing will be one of the most memorable in franchise history.

LeGrand, the defensive tackle from Rutgers University who suffered a spinal cord injury during a 2010 game, signed a professional football contract Wednesday with the Buccaneers. The signing was made on May 2 to symbolize LeGrand's college jersey number (52).

Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, preparing to start his first season with the team, was the head coach at Rutgers when LeGrand was injured. The 2012 NFL Draft class would have featured LeGrand had a tragic injury not ended his playing career.

On Oct. 16, 2010, LeGrand was covering a kickoff against Army when he lowered his head to make a tackle. Upon contacting the ball-carrier, LeGrand fractured two vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord. He immediately fell to the ground and lay motionless as medical staff tended to him.

The initial diagnosis from doctors was that LeGrand would be a quadriplegic and require a ventilator in order to breathe.

However, LeGrand clearly wasn't satisfied with that label. Through hard work and rehabilitation, LeGrand began breathing on his own less than two months after the accident. He can also now walk with the aid of a metal stabilizer.

His recovery has gone well enough that the former Rutgers player accompanied his teammates onto the field for a game last year. That video can be viewed below. LeGrand has continued his studies and plans to graduate this fall with a degree in labor studies.

The signing of LeGrand by the Bucs was a symbolic gesture that was appreciated by the player and his family. LeGrand said that he will receive no money in the contract, but clearly the act of kindness by Schiano and Tampa Bay management meant much more to LeGrand. The injured player said it shows what kind of man Schiano is.

On LeGrand's Twitter profile, he says that he is "out here trying to inspire the world." When news of the signing broke, LeGrand posted a picture of a Tampa Bay Buccaneers helmet and wrote "We ready!!!" Later he posted a picture of him smiling with the helmet in his lap. More than 52,000 people follow LeGrand on Twitter, monitoring his recovery and tweeting words of encouragement.

It is unknown in what capacity LeGrand will be involved with the Bucs, but one could assume that Schiano will make sure LeGrand has opportunities to be around the team and share his inspirational story.

Image Source: Facebook
Video Source: YouTube (GameDayESPN)

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