As an alumni of Rutgers University, I know first hand how much of an impact Eric LeGrand has had on the Rutgers community. Since, breaking his two vertebrae in October 2010, LeGrand has been an inspiration to those on and off the field. Instead of sulking in his own sorrows, Eric has become a role model.
His former college coach, Greg Schiano, said, "I don't know if this happened to me that I could be the man Eric is."
Eric is by all accounts, more than just a passing inspiration; he's a symbol of what we all want to be - courage, strength, and humility.
Had Eric stayed injury free throughout his college career, it’s quite possible that this would’ve been his rookie season in the NFL; a dream that LeGrand still holds onto.
Now that Shciano has left the college coaching ranks and has become a NFL Coach, he wanted to think of a way to honor his former defensive tackle. So, last month Schiano and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed LeGrand to a one of a kind NFL contract; a contract that was unpaid, but still gave him an opportunity to be a part of the franchise.
For Schiano and the Bucs, this contract wasn’t just a sympathy card to give to LeGrand or a public relations ploy for the organization. The Bucs believe LeGrand’s positive outlook and bright smile can give everyone a better perspective on life and the game of football. Something that you can place no monetary value on.
Today was the first day that Eric visited the Bucs facilities, met his teammates, and received his jersey; something he plans on autographing and selling in order to help spinal cord research.
"If you never found any type of motivation before, listening to him talk is definitely a confidence and motivation builder," Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "He's a strong-willed guy. He's just a great person."
After talking to his new teammates for the first time, LeGrand said, "It was great to talk to those guys. ... The main thing is I just want them to appreciate everything they have. Not too many people can say that they are a NFL football player, getting paid for what they love to do every single day. ... That's something I always wanted to do, so I want them to really appreciate that, not take things for granted out there."
Having said that, the former defensive tackle hasn’t given up his own dream of playing in the NFL one day. And given the progress that LeGrand has already made, don’t be surprised if this unpaid contract will one day be paid.