Former Rutgers University defensive tackle Eric LeGrand's journey from paralysis to role model reached new heights after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed LeGrand to an NFL contract, in what his former college coach and current Bucs head coach Greg Schiano called, a small gesture.
It's unclear what LeGrand's role will be with the Bucs, but details of his involvement are expected to come later Wednesday, the Star-Ledger reported.
LeGrand, 21, was a junior when he was paralyzed in October 2010 after suffering a spinal cord injury during the Rutgers-Army game.
LeGrand has since become an inspiration to other people with spinal cord-related injuries. In an uplifting moment, he led the Scarlet Knights onto the field against West Virginia, a year after the devastating injury.
The NFL conducted its draft last week and had LeGrand progressed as a player, his name might have been one of the 235 players selected.
Leading up to the draft, I couldn't help but think that this should've been Eric's draft class, said Schiano, who coached LeGrand at Rutgers and was the Scarlet Knights coach for a decade before taking over the Bucs for the upcoming season.
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.
LeGrand, who was overjoyed by the signing, tweeted, We ready!!! with a picture of a Bucs helmet on his Twitter account. The signing caused his name to become a trending topic on the micro-blogging site.
Tampa Bay said it was LeGrand's will that led them to sign him to a contract.
If Tampa Bay's personnel department developed a scouting report on LeGrand, as they do on all players they are considering signing, the first line was surely: Will never quit, the team's website said.
LeGrand plans to graduate from Rutgers next fall with a degree in labor studies. He won the Most Courageous Athlete Award from the New Jersey Sports Writers Association in January and he's set to receive the Unsung Hero Award at the New Jersey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on June 9 for his representation of courage, strength and character, according to the Bucs website.
ESPN's Adam Schefter called the Bucaneers signing the class story of the day.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King was also a big fan of the Bucs' move.
You rock, Bucs, for signing Eric LeGrand, King tweeted. What a phenomenal move by Schiano, [General Manager Mark] Dominik, Glazers [team owners], making him one of the 90 men on roster.
Rapper Lil Wayne joined in on the praise.
Today Eric LeGrand was drafted into the NFL, Weezy tweeted. Mark this down as a beautiful day in sports.
The signing moved Twitter user @Mac_Mysses to tears.
That Eric LeGrand news brought tears to my eyes, she said. After suffering such a devastating life changing injury, he once again prevails!