In a sports world that all too often is filled with sports stories like the Junior Seau reported suicide, “bountygate”, the Bobby Petrino scandal, and guys like Delmon Young being accused of an aggravated hate crime, we focus too little on the great stories of human achievement and decency. Today one of those moments happened, but only got a few seconds of time on radio and TV.
Today, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed undrafted rookie free agent, DT out of Rutgers Eric LeGrand. In October 2010, late in a game against Army, LeGrand broke two vertebrae leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Since, he has been able to stand and even walk with assistance. He has vowed to walk on his own, and from everything he has accomplished thus far, I am sure he will. He is a broadcasting major at Rutgers University and has had some sports casting gigs since the injury. Just a year after the injury, LeGrand led the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team onto the field via his wheel chair, a tear jerking moment that found itself gracing the cover of SI twice, the second as a well-deserved Moment of the Year. His new position with the Buccaneers will likely be as a part time sportscaster, but regardless, the Buccaneers allowed Eric LeGrand to realize his dream and make it to the NFL.
But, this isn’t the first time a story like this has happened. In 1981, soon after winning a National Championship with Indiana University, Landon Turner was involved in a one car crash that left him paralyzed from the waist down. That year, the Boston Celtics gave Turner the moment he had earned; he was drafted by an NBA team.
Then there was this past MLB draft. In a story that went much unnoticed, two teams gave kids a moment they thought was surely gone. University of Georgia player Johnathan Taylor had collided with teammate Zach Cone in a March 6th game, leaving Taylor paralyzed. That June’s MLB draft, in the supplemental part of the first round, Zach Cone was drafted by the Texas Rangers, then, in the 33rd round, the Rangers looked at the board, and did the honorable thing, drafted Cone’s Georgia teammate, Johnathan Taylor.
In the 40th round of the same draft, the Houston Astros drafted local community college standout Buddy Lamothe. Lamothe, a promising reliever with an ERA under 1.00, was another kid that had lost any hope of being drafted, much less walking, as he was left paralyzed after a recreational accident that landed him in a wheelchair.
I am sure there are other examples of this, but these were the four that came to mind. Regardless, I would love to turn on Sports Center and see a 15 minute segment on one of these stories rather than hear about another DUI, domestic disturbance, or athlete complaining that his $10 million a year contract isn’t enough. Instead, share a story of a team that has given a young athlete a moment that surely brought a smile to their face that is simply priceless.