Eric LeGrand has turned the tragedy of his paralysis on the football field in 2010 into inspiration. Yet somehow his own alma mater, Rutgers University, doesn’t find him a worthy commencement speaker for its graduation ceremony — a honor the school offered him, and then withdrew.
The Newark Star Ledger’s website on Tuesday carried the story of how Rutgers first asked him on Saturday to replace former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as its commencement speaker, then changed their minds Monday.
Remember this about Rutgers: it embraced him, kept him in school after his injury, and retired his number last year. It’s the only number ever retired in school history.
Also remember this: the school has done nothing but embarrass itself over the last year. There was the basketball coach bullying scandal (and the cover-up). The hiring of a new athletic director with a sketchy pass and problems with honesty. And, just last month, that same athletic director telling a classroom full of journalism students that she hoped the Star Ledger itself would go out of business, just weeks before the paper it laid off nearly 200 employees.
LeGrand’s feelings are hurt by the snub. And after what he endured as a player on behalf of the school, why shouldn’t they be?
“You have no idea how much I’ve been thinking about it,” LeGrand told the Star Ledger. “I was thinking all weekend long about what I could share with the students, my experiences. I was going to take them back before when I was getting recruited by Rutgers, what made me come here, and the things I learned here, and, of course, my injury and how great it’s been since then.”
But maybe Rutgers officials just don’t think he gives good speeches. Those officials apparently weren’t at their own stadium last September for the jersey retirement. Thankfully, his fans were there to record it.