Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Eric LeGrand striving to walk again
By Pat Yasinskas
TAMPA, Fla. -- Eric LeGrand just finished one of the more unique conference calls in the history of conference calls for undrafted free agents.
That’s largely because LeGrand is one of the most unique rookies to ever get an NFL contract. He didn’t get any money and he won’t play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he signed a contract with them Wednesday morning and spoke with the media a few minutes after the news was announced.
LeGrand played defensive tackle for Rutgers before he suffered a spinal cord injury in 2010. Although he initially was told he would be paralyzed and would have to stay on a ventilator, LeGrand was breathing on his own five weeks after the injury. Since then, he has regained some movement. He continues to insist that he will walk again.
“I’m going to keep fighting,’’ LeGrand said. “I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but I know it is going to happen.’’
LeGrand currently is living with his mother in an apartment in Woodbridge, N.J., as they wait for a new house to be built that is handicapped accessible. LeGrand said that house will be ready by Christmas. He continues to take classes at Rutgers and is closing in on his degree. LeGrand said he wants to pursue a career in sports broadcasting and already has met with an official from ESPN and could have some other opportunities. Physically, LeGrand goes to therapy three times a week and continues to make progress. He is able to stand with the help of a metal frame and now can sit up on his own for about 15 minutes at a time.
“I wasn’t supposed to do any of this,’’ LeGrand said. “This is exciting for me.’’
The signing with Tampa Bay is the continuation of a close bond LeGrand formed with Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano when the two were at Rutgers. Since leaving Rutgers in January, Schiano has called LeGrand about once a week.
“Coach Schiano is like a father figure,’’ LeGrand said. “Going into Rutgers as a little boy and now I’m coming out a man. In life you can’t control what cards you’re dealt. He helped me with all that.’’