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Rutgers graduation to be LeGrand affair

Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand will share commencement stage with former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean.

IT TOOK A WHILE, but we finally know who's speaking at Rutgers' commencement ceremony.

On Saturday, came word that former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had backed out amid protests from students and faculty over her involvement with the Bush administation's handling of the Iraq war.

So the school has replaced her with - drumroll please - Tom Kean and Eric LeGrand, thus assuring a riveting, inspirational speech.

From LeGrand, not Kean.

Let face it, the 79-year-old Kean was governor of New Jersey before most of the graduates were even born. And, how much does a guy who endorsed John McCain over Barack Obama have in common with twenty-somethings?

As for LeGrand? Well, he's the real deal.

The former Rutgers' defensive tackle was paralyzed in a game in 2010. He is a seasoned speaker who doesn't prepare notes, choosing instead to speak from the heart. At 23, he is one of them.

And to think he was almost uninvited - depending or who you believe.

LeGrand said that on Saturday, he was asked by Greg Jackson, the chief of staff for Rutgers president Robert Barchi, to replace Rice as commencement speaker.

"I was like, 'Wow, thank you for offering,'" LeGrand told "He [Jackson] goes, 'Yeah, absolutely. Talk it over with your family this weekend. Let's touch base again Monday.' I was all amped all weekend. I was like, 'This is perfect. I'm going to have to give a speech to everybody.'"

On Monday, LeGrand said he was told that that Kean would be delivering the speech.

That caused a bit of an uproar and yesterday, lo and behold, the university claimed there had been a misunderstanding.

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

So are the graduates.