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LeGrand: Rutgers withdrew speech offer usat.ly/1q99BnI (external - login to view) via @USATODAY (external - login to view)

In the hours after he said he was offered the chance to deliver the commencement speech at Rutgers University's May 18 commencement, Eric LeGrand had plenty of ideas racing through his head.

All the former Rutgers football player could think about was how he would share his story and how he has persevered through his paralyzing injury as a way to inspire his graduating classmates.

"I was just going to tell them my story, about the whole process," LeGrand said. "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."

LeGrand was in Florida on Saturday enjoying dinner when he said his phone buzzed with a number he didn't recognize. He didn't answer it at first, but when the number came across a second time LeGrand answered and he said it was Gregory Jackson, chief of staff for Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi.

"Saturday I get a call from Greg Jackson and they offered me the job to give the commencement speech," LeGrand said. "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 was in the beginning stages of planning his speech Monday when he said he received a call from Rutgers athletics director Julie Hermann, who he said told him Rutgers officials decided to go in a different direction.

Just before 5 p.m. Monday Rutgers sent a news release announcing that Barchi had named former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean as the keynote speaker at the university graduation ceremony. The announcement came two days after former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opted not to deliver the commencement address amid a string of protests stemming from her role as national security adviser to former President George W. Bush during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

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Eric LeGrand: Rutgers withdrew commencement speech offer (external - login to view)