A Symbolic Gesture

May 23, 2014

Two football players whose careers and lives were forever altered by injury…who still got to be part of the NFL, at least symbolically.

  • Devon WalkerFollowing his senior season at Tulane in 2012, safety Devon Walker aimed to go pro, hopefully with the New Orleans Saints. Instead, he suffered a tragic spinal cord injury on the field when he collided with a teammate. It ended his season, and his playing career—and it paralyzed him from the neck down. Shortly after graduating from Tulane earlier this month, the Saints reached out to Walker. The team invited him to their preseason rookie camp…and then presented him with a ceremonial contract, ensuring that his dream of being a New Orleans Saint was fulfilled.
  • Eric LeGrand was a star defensive tackle at Rutgers University. In 2010, his junior season, he collided with a kickoff returner for the opposing team so hard that two vertebrae were shattered. Doctors initially thought he would never gain momentum in his body below his neck ever again, and would require a respirator for the rest of his life. However, within a month, LeGrand was breathing on his own; three months after the injury, he’d regained movement in his shoulders. By the summer, he was moving his arms and was able to stand up. While he won’t play football again, it didn’t matter to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team signed him to a symbolic contract in 2012 (the coach at the time was LeGrand’s coach at Rutgers, Greg Shiano). LeGrand even scored an endorsement deal with Subway.
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