Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand to speak at school's commencement

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Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand had his No. 52 retired by the school last year. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Eric LeGrand

Former Rutgers University football player Eric LeGrand will speak at the school's commencement ceremony, according to a statement by Rutgers president Robert L. Barchi. The statement was released after LeGrand said earlier that the school withdrew its offer for him to speak at the ceremony.

LeGrand was paralyzed in 2010 after making a head-first tackle in a game against Army at MetLife Stadium. He earned his degree in labor studies from the school earlier this year. The original commencement speaker, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, bowed out after protests related to her role in former President George W. Bush's administration.

LeGrand told USA Today he was at dinner last weekend when he received at a call from Gregory Jackson, chief of staff for Barchi, asking him to speak at the May 18 commencement. Two days later, Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann reportedly withdrew the offer “for political reasons.” LeGrand said he was not given any other reason for the school's decision to go in another direction.

"I was just going to tell them my story, about the whole process," LeGrand said, via USA Today. "Starting in 2005, being recruited by Rutgers and what it meant to me to play here and go to school here. And then the way everybody supported me through my injury, I was just going to give inspirational words about how they should attack life. All the things I've learned so far. All the (graduates), they're my age so I was going to try to (say) words they could remember, words that would inspire them to do great things in life."

"I'm very upset about it," LeGrand said. "I was all excited all weekend thinking about what I was going to say. It's rough."

According to the president's statement, however, LeGrand will be one of several speakers at the commencement ceremony. According to the USA Today report, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean will be the keynote speaker.

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