Eric LeGrand to address grads

ByKieran Darcy ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 6, 2014

NEW YORK -- Eric LeGrand will speak at Rutgers' commencement later this month after all.

That's according to university president Robert Barchi, who issued a statement Tuesday afternoon.

"Eric LeGrand will speak at our commencement and personally receive his degree from me as a representative of the Class of 2014," the statement read.

The university's comments came after LeGrand, a former Rutgers defensive tackle who was paralyzed in a game in 2010, tweeted on Monday night that Rutgers had rescinded its offer for him to speak at the May 18 ceremony.

Rutgers offered me the commencement speech this weekend and I was going to accept but they decided to go other ways for political reasons

- Eric LeGrand (@EricLeGrand52) May 6, 2014LeGrand told the Asbury Park Press on Monday night that he was offered to speak at the commencement by Gregory Jackson, chief of staff for Barchi, but didn't hear back from top Rutgers officials until after they'd announced that former New Jersey governor Tom Kean would replace initial invitee Condoleezza Rice.

"It was never our intention that Eric would be the only speaker," Barchi said in the statement. "We have resolved that miscommunication and are delighted to have him participate."

LeGrand told Darren Rovell of later Tuesday that he was pleased with the outcome.

"I'm very happy that I will get to speak to the students," LeGrand said. "I just hate that it had to go down this way and just wish everyone was on the same page.

"I want to thank everyone in social media who had a voice in this and continue to support me and motivate me every day." 

Rice, a former U.S. Secretary of State, pulled out of the appearance Saturday following student protests regarding her involvement with the Iraq war.

"Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families," Rice wrote on her Facebook page, announcing her decision. "Rutgers' invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time."

Kean was officially announced as Rice's replacement on Monday. LeGrand sent out his tweet a few hours later, and many people were outraged as a result.

The highly popular LeGrand has been an inspiration to many in his quest to walk again after suffering his spinal cord injury four years ago.

It is unclear whether Rutgers is simply doing damage control or whether the school intended to have LeGrand speak at the ceremony all along.

After speaking with Pres. Barchi I will join Gov. Kean speaking at @RutgersU graduating class of 2014. Lets keep the focus on the graduates

- Eric LeGrand (@EricLeGrand52) May 6, 2014"Eric holds a special place in the hearts of the Class of 2014 and the entire university community," Barchi said in the statement. "We are thrilled that he will be joining us on stage to make this special occasion ever more memorable."

Although he will split time with Kean on stage, LeGrand says he has not been given a time limit.

LeGrand, who gives a lot of speeches and is represented by IMG, said he does not write down any of his addresses.

"I'm just going to think about what I want to say and then just talk," he told Rovell.'s Darren Rovell contributed to this report.

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