Sports

Paralyzed Ex-Rutgers Player Will Speak at Commencement, School Says

Eric LeGrand, a former Rutgers University football player who was paralyzed in a game in 2010, will speak at the school’s May 18 commencment after a “miscommunication” led to the school retracting a previous offer for LeGrand to speak.

“Eric LeGrand will speak at our Commencement and personally receive his degree from me as a representative of the Class of 2014,” Rutgers president Robert Barchi said in a statement. “It was never our intention that Eric would be the only speaker. We have resolved that miscommunication and are delighted to have him participate.

“Eric holds a special place in the hearts of the Class of 2014 and the entire university community. We are thrilled that he will be joining us on stage to make this special occasion even more memorable.”

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Earlier Tuesday, NJ.com reported that Legrand was “upset” about being asked to speak and then being told the keynote address would be delivered by former governor Tom Keane.

“I just want an explanation,” LeGrand told NJ.com in a phone interview. “I wish somebody would have given me a call tonight and explained to me why. Then I can understand, but don’t just leave me hanging.”

As LeGrand tells it to NJ.com, a Rutgers official asked him to deliver the keynote address at the school’s May 18 commencement, but 48 hours later another school official called him and said Rutgers, “decided to go in another direction for political reasons.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was the initial choice for the address, but she backed out amid controversy surrounding her selection. LeGrand had planned to accept the offer on Monday, according to NJ.com. Based on his conversation with the school, he had assumed accepting the speech was a formality.

The Rutgers football team retired LeGrand’s number in 2013. LeGrand is graduating this year from the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations.

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