Buccaneers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand knew his hopes of playing in the NFL ended when he suffered a severe spinal cord injury during his junior season at Rutgers. But when LeGrand’s coach at Rutgers, Greg Schiano, became the coach in Tampa Bay, he decided to sign Legrand and treat him like a member of the team, and today that meant bringing LeGrand to practice and having him address the Buccaneers.
LeGrand’s message was simple: Play every down like it’s your last.
“I want them to appreciate everything they have,” LeGrand said at a press conference after his talk to the Buccaneers. “Not too many people get paid to do what they love to do every day. . . . Really appreciate that — don’t take for granted things that other people don’t have.”
LeGrand’s No. 52 Buccaneers jersey is now on sale, with proceeds benefitting the Eric LeGrand Foundation, which will fund research into spinal cord injuries and help people who suffer such injuries and lack health insurance.
Schiano said he has long viewed LeGrand as one of the most positive, upbeat players he has ever coached, and he thinks it’s important for LeGrand’s attitude to rub off on the rest of the team.
“This is a guy that I’ve known for a long time, a guy who played for us at Rutgers, and as I said to the team earlier today, long before his injury and a lot of notoriety that he’s received, this was a guy who came every day to our football building and had just a tremendous attitude,” Schiano said. “I don’t know, if this happened to me, if I could be the man that Eric is.”
LeGrand acknowledged today that there have been times when he was scared: “I didn’t know if I was going to die right there — is this going to be the end of my life?”
But now LeGrand says nothing scares him anymore, and he’s as confident in himself as he’s ever been.
“My next goal is to get back on my feet,” LeGrand said. “And that will happen.”
That’s the kind of attitude Schiano wants his other players to hear.