By Ann Liguori
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Every day we're besieged with headlines that are so depressing that it makes you want to turn off the news and shake your head in sadness, disgust or disappointment. The latest was the tragic apparent suicide of 43-year-old Junior Seau.
This horrible news, coupled with former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson's suicide in February 2011, obviously raises more questions about the harmful and often tragic effects of brain injuries in football, a subject I often write about. Add "Bountygate" and all its ugliness to the equation and the NFL has been stuck in a swamp of tragedy and negativity.
Enter Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their recent signing of Eric LeGrand, and immediately, a smile comes across your face. What a wonderful act of goodness. What a positive story for the NFL and beyond.
Schiano, only in Tampa for three months, could have stayed completely absorbed in his new environment, his new job, his new challenge. But he took the time and compassion to do something that will mean the world to Eric LeGrand, his family and to anyone who followed LeGrand and is inspired by his courage, determination and attitude.
It's been 19 months since LeGrand broke two vertebrae and suffered a paralyzing spinal cord injury on October 16, 2010, during a kick-off return against Army. As he continues his rehab and his studies at Rutgers, it's good to know that Schiano and the Bucs can symbolically make him a part of their organization. Yes, it's a big boost for LeGrand and encouragement for him to keep working hard in rehab and with his studies, as the sports world keeps an eye out for him and is pulling for him to someday walk again. But I also think the gesture will help remind the Buccaneers of the fragility of the game and their lives, both on and off the field. It's a daily reminder to be thankful for your health and everything we take for granted – walking, freedom, pursuing our dreams.
LeGrand was quoted in an AP story: "It's something I always dreamed about, go to the NFL and retire and become a sportscaster. Dreams do come true if you really believe. You do the right things in life, good things happen to you. He really just did this out of the kindness of his heart. It's really what he wanted to do. I had no idea this was going to happen."
It's also a reminder that there are a lot of positive, courageous and good people in the world and Greg Schiano and Eric LeGrand are two of them.
In that same AP article, LeGrand was quoted as saying: "That was the whole goal. That's what you work for and dream for playing football…I wanted to get to the NFL. I believe I had a shot at it, and unfortunately the injury happened. But the fortunate thing is I was able to help a lot more people out there in the world by not playing football than I was when I was actually playing."
With wisdom and insight like that, LeGrand's 'signing' could prove to be a major 'intangible' that helps a team pull together and win football games. Sounds like a win-win for LeGrand, the Bucs and all of football!
Your thoughts on Schiano and the inspirational LeGrand? Be heard in the comments below!
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