A good day for Eric LeGrand is one on which he can serve as an inspiration to a single person. Friday at Raymond James Stadium was a very good day.
LeGrand, who recently retired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster, was on hand Friday night as his team took on the Tennessee Titans in the second week of the 2012 preseason. The former Rutgers player served as the Buccaneers honorary captain during the coin toss just before kickoff and drew a rousing round of applause.
"I'm excited to get to be out here with these fans and everything," said LeGrand. "This is my new home."
LeGrand signed with the Buccaneers in May following what would have been the NFL draft for which he would have been eligible, had his college career gone as planned. Everything changed in the fall of 2010, however, when LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down while making a tackle against Army at Giants Stadium.
Amazingly, that injury never slowed LeGrand down. He defied the medical odds in the days after his injury and has since worked tirelessly to achieve his goal of rising from his wheelchair and walking again. In the process, he has become an inspirational figure to countless of people, including others working to overcome similar injuries. LeGrand has also become a particular point of inspiration for his Buccaneer teammates, whom he visited in June during the team's offseason workouts.
Since his last visit to Tampa, LeGrand has continued his rehabilitation efforts, and he reports such improvements as twitching in his fingers and movement in his shoulders. He also spends an hour each day walking with the assistance of a machine, working to, as he says, "shock his nervous system."
Despite that busy schedule, LeGrand didn't hesitate to fly to Tampa for the Buccaneers' first home game of 2012. His appearance on the Raymond James Stadium turf brought the crowd to its feet.
"That's what I'm trying to do, inspire a world of people," said LeGrand. "Every day I just try to inspire one person just by being the person I am. A lot of people think I became this person by what happened, but this is the person I always was and I'm happy I'm able to touch other people and inspire them."