Eric LeGrand is living his dream, albeit from a different perspective. Paralysis has taken away his ability to play the game he loves, but it hasn't damaged his spirit for it.
"This was a guy who came every day to our football building and had just a tremendous attitude," said new Bucs coach Greg Schiano, who coached LeGrand in his previous job at Rutgers. "I don't know; if this happened to me, if I could be the man that Eric is…This guy is, in my book, a true hero and a true inspiration."
LeGrand couldn't stop smiling as he soaked in his first day in the NFL.
"Being around an NFL team, around NFL players, is the greatest feeling in the world," LeGrand said. "I feel like if a part of a team. I'm blessed."
A lightning storm prevented Eric LeGrand from addressing his team on the field. Instead, his impromptu speech was moved inside the locker room. But LeGrand is used to making adjustments in his life. This minor change didn't affect the message.
His key points: Stay mentally strong and fight adversity.
"It had a big impact on me, personally," said linebacker Mason Foster. "All the things that he's been through, I followed the story before Coach Schiano came here. To see from when it first happened to now, his outlook on life, it really makes it so that anybody else, you can't complain about anything. He's going through this and he's still really positive about anything. It makes you want to just wake up and work hard."
"We always complain about a bunch of nothing and for a guy to have the sport he loves taken away from him completely and be as happy as he's ever been," offered Gerald McCoy, "what can we really complain about?"
Rookie running back Doug Martin has been limited in offseason work because of a hamstring strain and seeing LaGrand in a wheelchair brought the first-round pick some perspective.
"Compared to him, my hamstring is nothing," said Martin. "It's just so impressive what he's been through and with my hammy, I mean, I just have to put that behind me and go.''
His jersey is more than just a number on the Bucs' 90-man roster. It has purpose. Proceeds from his number-52 jersey will go towards funding his Eric LeGrand Foundation, which will help in the research for spinal injuries.
"I'm out there trying to inspire a whole world of people and change the world, one day at a time," he added.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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