Eric LeGrand: Buccaneers Make Impressive Statement Signing Former Rutgers Star

Wes ODonnell@wesodonnellFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2012

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - NOVEMBER 19:  Eric LeGrand #52 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights posses for a photo with teammates on Senior's Day at center field before a game against Cincinnati Bearcats at Rutgers Stadium on November 19, 2011 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. LeGrand was paralyzed during a kickoff return in October 2010.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano left the banks of the old Raritan behind this offseason after turning down countless offers in previous years.

The former Rutgers coach left the Big East competitor infinitely better than when he found it, and the Scarlet Knights have turned out a number of NFL players and stars in recent years.

One particular Scarlet Knight whose potential NFL career was thought to be taken away was Eric LeGrand, the Rutgers star who was paralyzed from the neck down in a game against Army on October 19, 2010 at Giants Stadium.

Coach and player are back together again
Coach and player are back together againPatrick McDermott/Getty Images

But LeGrand has defied the odds time and time again in his rehabilitation, and now he's signed an NFL contract with the Buccaneers, according to the team website

Schiano and the organization didn't just make this gesture as one of charity. They did it because they wanted to make a statement about the type of players they want in the organization.

The coach was quoted saying, "Leading up to the draft, I couldn’t help but think that this should’ve been Eric’s draft class. This small gesture is the least we could do to recognize his character, spirit and perseverance".

But more importantly, Schiano characterized Eric as what he wants to see in, as he put it, "Buccaneer Men" (via the Bucs' Twitter account):

More from Coach Schiano on new Buc Eric LeGrand: "The way Eric lives his life epitomizes what we are looking for in Buccaneer Men.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) May 2, 2012

LeGrand's story has become well known to many. Schiano knows that LeGrand not only embodies what he's looking for in "Buccaneer Men," but that his story inspires others across the nation. In some instances, LeGrand is a medical miracle, and he even has aspirations to walk again.

On the surface this looks like a college coach just looking out for one of his players, but in reality it is so much more. With Eric LeGrand, there is always so much more.

Coach Schiano knows this, and that is why the signing is not only an impressive statement, but a brilliant move as well.