The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added defensive end Eric LeGrand from the University of Rutgers to its 90-man offseason roster – only he isn’t expect to play a snap because he’s paralyzed.
LeGrand was rushing down the field in a game against Army in 2010, when he attempted to tackle Malcolm Brown who had the ball. There was a nasty collision that broke two vertebrae in his spine, paralysing him from the waist down.
The hit was so devastating that then-Rutgers coach Greg Schiano made a controversial call for kickoffs to be banned completely, saying that students were now too big and too fast, and that it’s going to cause more injuries.
His alternate suggestion was to have teams punt from the 30-yard line to empty fields, or if they want a chance at keeping possession (like they would during an on-side kick), they can choose for a fourth-and-15 player from their own 30 yard line.
Despite his suggestion being largely ridiculed, and fans reacting by claiming that dangerous kickoff-returns are just ‘part of the game’, Schiano went on to move up to the NFL ranks as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now that he’s at the helm of the Buccs, Schiano has speahearded Tampa Bay into making the symbolic signing of LeGrand to their active roster.
This report from Newsday sums it up pretty well:
“LeGrand became an inspiration to teammates at Rutgers, eventually being able to stand upright with the help of a metal frame. He resumed his studies via video conferences for the 2011 spring semester, and on Oct. 29, 2011, led the Scarlet Knights onto the field before a game.”