On Saturday, former Rutgers DT Eric LeGrand said he was given an offer to give the commencement speech at Rutgers' graduation May 18. On Monday, the offer was no longer there.
LeGrand is hurt and confused about it all and now former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean is giving the address.
"I just want an explanation," LeGrand told NJ.com Monday night. "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."
LeGrand, who was paralyzed making a tackle against Army on Oct. 16, 2010, has become one of the university's best ambassadors – if not the best – with his attitude and exuberance in light of what happened on the football field almost four years ago. He's become a motivational speaker, earned his degree in January, worked for many charitable causes and had his number retired by the school last year. Heck, he's even been in a Subway ad and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
He'd be a perfect choice, right?
The school's initial choice for commencement speaker was former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, coincidentally a member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. However, because of the tumultuous nature of the era in which she served under former President George W. Bush, her selection was embroiled in controversy. She backed out late last week.
LeGrand was next up. Though apparently the university was still looking for a pinch hitter. He said he got the call about the offer from Greg Jackson, the chief of staff for the Rutgers president, who LeGrand says told him to talk the offer over with his family and the two would talk Monday. They did, but only briefly before Jackson had to head to a meeting.
He got the bad news later Monday from Julie Hermann, the athletic director, who LeGrand said was pushing for him to do it, along with football coach Kyle Flood.
"You have no idea how much I’ve been thinking about it," LeGrand said. "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."
Could Rutgers still move in another different direction and come back to LeGrand? Absolutely. LeGrand's story has resonated with so many people and he'll receive a ton of support over the coming days, potentially forcing the university to make a move for the sake of PR.
However, based off LeGrand's story, there's no reason that it should have gotten to this point. There's no reason to treat anyone like that, let alone one of your most prominent representatives. You'd think Rutgers could have learned from last year.
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