EAST RUTHERFORD — Paralyzed former Rutgers player Eric LeGrand took part in the coin toss for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium today.
A New Jersey native, LeGrand was injured making a tackle against Army on a kickoff in the stadium in 2010.
LeGrand wore a Bucs’ jersey with the No. 52 and was warmly greeted by the Giants’ crowd before referee Jim Core made the toss. The Bucs called tails and won.
“It was nice,” said LeGrand. “I told everybody I wasn’t going to wear my jersey, but they convinced me to wear it. So I went out there and the Giants fans showed me great love. There’s much respect to them.”
LeGrand was greeted by players from both sides, including the Giants’ Eli Manning and Justin Tuck and the Bucs’ Josh Freeman and Ronde Barber.
LeGrand was signed by Tampa Bay and former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano after the draft this year. LeGrand retired a few days later. He works on the pre-game and halftime radio show for Rutgers football games, and according to his agent, Sandy Montag, he is trying to get full-time work in the broadcasting industry.
His book, “Believe,” is scheduled to be in bookstores Sept. 25.
But today was all about seeing his friends from Tampa Bay, his former coach and the Giants players, many of whom he knows from previous visits.
“It was a great feeling. Those fans, knowing my story, I need that support. I was on the field once last year, for the Giants-Jets game,” LeGrand said. “But that time I just went down there. This time, it was a perfect situation. We talked to Tampa Bay and the Giants, and I said I’d love to do it. I’ve been down there (to Tampa Bay) three times already, talking to the players. I was just down there for the opener.”
Still, the fateful play against Army that turned LeGrand’s life upside down is never far from his mind when he comes to the Meadowlands.
“I always look back on it when I come here, but it never discourages me, especially when it’s this type of weather,” LeGrand said on a sunny Sunday afternoon. “When it’s cold, not really.”