Four years after being paralyzed while playing in a football game for Rutgers University, Eric LeGrand is set to receive his diploma from the University in the School of Management and Labor Relations. After having overcome so much adversity, LeGrand seemed like the perfect option to be the university’s commencement speaker after a string of protests caused the school’s No. 1 pick, Condoleezza Rice, to drop out.
A Rutgers official asked LeGrand on Saturday to deliver the keynote speech at the university’s May 18 commencement, but on Monday, LeGrand was informed that the university had “decided to go in a different direction for political reasons.”
“Saturday I get a call from (Rutgers chief of staff) Greg Jackson and they offered me the job to give the commencement speech,” LeGrand said, via USA TODAY. “I was like, ‘Wow, thanks for the opportunity,’ and he said, ‘Let’s touch base Monday and talk about it.’ So I was telling my friends and my family, everybody was so excited.”
LeGrand had just begun crafting what he was going to say to his fellow students, when he got a phone call from Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann, who LeGrand said told him the school decided to go with someone else. Monday evening, Rutgers sent a news release announcing that university president Robert L. Barchi had named former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean as the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony.
“I just feel like I was offered something and it was taken back and I don’t know the reasons why,” LeGrand said, via NJ.com. “I wasn’t told the reasons why. I thought I was a good fit for the position to do it. I thought I could do the job, but I guess they thought different.”
Since his career-ending injury in 2010, LeGrand has given motivational speeches across the country, and the football team retired his No. 52 jersey in September 2013.
Update (1:40 p.m.): The university has said there was a “miscommunication,” and LeGrand will speak at the school’s commencement.