As I mentioned a time or two on Twitter recently, I’ve become a bit disenchanted with sports recently. Really it’s more that I’ve become dissatisfied and annoyed by sports coverage, but it manifests itself in an overall sense of tired-head for sports news in general.
But then a story like this comes along and reminds me of just how inspiring sports can be:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed Eric LeGrand to their 90-man offseason roster, helping a great kid who suffered a horrific injury to fulfill a lifelong dream.
This post at Buccaneers.com does a great job of providing the backstory on LeGrand and why it was so important to his former coach at Rutgers Greg Schiano – now the head coach of the Bucs – that this happen.
Here is an excerpt:
It is the strength of LeGrand’s will, however, that prompted the Buccaneers to sign him to their roster. 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.”
LeGrand was just a junior when he suffered his injury, so it’s impossible to predict if his football path would have ended in the NFL under other circumstances. At the time, he had played in 31 games and recorded 60 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries. Still, his signing with the Buccaneers this spring is still the fulfillment of a dream, as it allows him to bring attention to the issue of spinal cord injuries and the ongoing research to find a cure. LeGrand’s unfailingly positive attitude has amazed many, but he draws strength from his desire to be an inspiration to others who suffer similar injuries.
“Leading up to the draft, I couldn’t help but think that this should’ve been Eric’s draft class,” said Schiano. “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.”
Before today, I couldn’t really have cared less how Schiano’s tenure in Tampa Bay went. Now I will be actively rooting for him to succeed.
As for LeGrand, I speak for everyone when I say that I would love to see him achieve his dream, as explained here to SI.com’s Jon Wertheim, of going back to the spot on the field at Giants Stadium where he was injured, lay down, and then get up and walk off on his power.
So much time this NFL offseason has been spent over-analyzing so many ultimately trivial stories: mock drafts, how the Jets will use their second string QB, etc. To me, this story is worth more air time than all of those other stories combined.
Eric LeGrand is a true role model, a man who is inspiring people across the world – sports fans and non-sports alike – because of his attitude. He’s had one of the most negative things happen to him that can happen to anyone, and he is facing it head on and using the fame he received because he was a college football player to inspire others.
We talk a lot about “heroes” in sports. How a basketball player was “heroic” in taking and making a big shot. How a wide receiver was “heroic” for making a catch over the middle before being drilled. How a baseball player “heroically” came through with a clutch RBI.
We’ve bastardized the word.
Heroes are the men and women of the military who protect our freedom, and men and women like Eric LeGrand who inspire others to be better people, independent of anything having to do with sports. Eric LeGrand just happens to be a hero who played sports.
Kudos to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization for making this wonderful gesture to a young man who is unequivocally deserving.
And best wishes to Eric LeGrand. Having read up on him and understanding the passion and optimism he attacks each day with, I wouldn’t ever bet against him doing anything.