Coach Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand on Tuesday. LeGrand is a special person and amazing story. After suffering paralysis from a spinal cord injury in 2010, LeGrand’s story of determination and will became a national headline. Against all odds, the Sports Illustrated recipient of “Moment of the Year” walked with the help of a frame and was able to breathe on his own. While the story is every bit about the heroics of LeGrande, it is just as much about the man who has stuck by his side.
We all have a special person or passion in our lives which has taught us the value and fulfillment of service to others. Often it’s we who gain the most from that service by being taught through their examples. It’s a moral teaching as old as time, one which is a basis of nearly every spiritual or religious following. Still, even the best of us can get distracted and caught up in the roller coasters of our own lives and forget those teachings.
Through it all, Schiano has not forgotten.
It would have been understandable if such a gesture was not made yesterday. Rising from the college ranks to become head coach of an NFL franchise tends to be the exception. He relocated his family, hired coaches, started evaluating his team on tape, worked on free agency and ran his first practices all while preparing for the NFL Draft. I’d be lucky if I remembered my name throughout such a transformation. Yet coach Schiano remembered what was most important; Eric LeGrand’s dream of becoming an NFL player. That dream was realized yesterday and it was the ultimate thanks to a player who had taught him so much.
“Leading up to the draft, I couldn’t help but think that this should’ve been Eric’s draft class,” Schiano said in a statement released today by Rutgers and the Buccaneers. “This small gesture is the least we could do to recognize his character, spirit, and perseverance. The way Eric lives his life epitomizes what we are looking for in Buccaneer Men.” -NJ.com
What makes the signing important to this current Buccaneers team is what it says about Schiano. We’ve all heard the sound bytes before, the commitments to leadership. Anyone can be anointed a leader, few can earn it. The “Buccaneer Way” has been a mantra Schiano has stressed since his opening press conference. Character, accountability and family were all buzzwords in his statement. Character was an emphasis in the draft. Accountability was the focus in the “details” driven veteran mini-camp. The team being a “family” shows in the signing of LeGrand. If it was easy to be skeptical before, it’s easy to believe now. He is the real deal, a leader setting the example, not just speaking about it. Much like when coach Tony Dungy took over the team, Schiano has brought a new way of thinking to the organization. Much like when coach Jon Gruden took over for Dungy, Schiano has brought a new fire. The combination is one such a young team will benefit and grow from.
The road may not be an easy one. Expectations are high and things really can’t get too much worse that a 4-12 record. This Bucs team could be an overnight success story or one which takes time to develop. Either way, the organization and head coach have a plan. I’d rather see this team fail with a plan than fail without one. I’d rather have a leader worth following than one I have to follow. Coach Schiano’s Buccaneer Way has been infectious. Regardless of outcome on the field, coach Schiano has brought back belief.
To achieve success, belief in that success is the first and sometimes hardest step to take. It’s a step coach Schiano has made the easiest.
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