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Paralyzed former Rutgers football player says school rescinded offer to speak at commencement

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A former football player at Rutgers University who was paralyzed in a October 2010 game is claiming his alma mater offered him the chance to speak at the university’s commencement and then rescinded the invitation a few days later.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently announced that she would not speak at the school’s commencement after protests from students and faculty over her role as national security adviser.

Eric LeGrand told the Courier News he was contacted Saturday night by Gregory Jackson, the chief of staff for Rutgers President Robert Barchi.

“They offered me the job to give the commencement speech,” LeGrand told the paper. “I was like, ‘Wow, thanks for the opportunity Let’s touch base Monday and talk about it.’ So I was telling my friends and my family, everybody was so excited.”

On Monday, LeGrand says he was contacted by Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann, who told him that the school had changed its mind.

Late Monday, the school announced former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean as the featured speaker at the May 18 commencement.

Rutgers spokesman Pete McDonough told the Courier News that Barchi selected Kean as the speaker after consulting the university’s Board of Governors.

LeGrand was paralyzed while making a tackle during a game against Army on October 16, 2010. He has since regained movement in his shoulders and feeling throughout his body.

“I know that President Barchi wants to hand me my degree but now I’m hesitant [to go to the ceremony]” LeGrand told the paper. “I feel like they offered me, and then changed their mind. I don’t know why.”

Rutgers has not publicly addressed LeGrand’s claims.

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