(USA TODAY) -- After being criticized by state lawmakers, media and fans for apparently rescinding its initial offer to have Eric LeGrand speak at its May 18 commencement ceremony, Rutgers University announced Tuesday it will allow LeGrand to address his fellow graduates.
"Eric LeGrand will speak at our commencement and personally receive his degree from me as a representative of the Class of 2014,'' Rutgers President Robert Barchi said in a statement. "It was never our intention that Eric would be the only speaker. We have resolved that miscommunication and are delighted to have him participate.''
LeGrand wasn't available for an immediate interview, but tweeted on his @EricLeGrand52 Twitter account: "After speaking with Pres. Barchi I will join Gov. Kean speaking at @RutgersU graduating class of 2014. Lets keep the focus on the graduates.'"
The statement Tuesday came approximately 14 hours after LeGrand tweeted to his 129,000 Twitter followers: "Rutgers offered me the commencement speech this weekend and I was going to accept but they decided to go other ways for political reasons.''
In a subsequent interview with the Asbury Park Press late Monday night, LeGrand expressed disappointment, saying he was offered the commencement speaking duty by Gregory Jackson, chief of staff for Rutgers President Robert Barchi, and then didn't hear back from top university officials until after Barchi had named former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean as the keynote speaker at the university graduation ceremony.
LeGrand had his life altered during his junior football campaign, sustaining a paralyzing neck injury while making a head-first tackle in a game against Army on Oct. 16, 2010 at MetLife Stadium. Since then he's become a national celebrity for his "bELieve" attitude in the face of adversity.
In January, LeGrand earned his degree in labor studies to cap six years of determination.
"Eric holds a special place in the hearts of the Class of 2014 and the entire university community," Barchi said. "We are thrilled that he will be joining us on stage to make this special occasion even more memorable."
LeGrand wasn't immediately available for an interview Tuesday.
In addition to being criticized in media circles and Rutgers fan message boards for its decision, Rutgers was the subject of criticism in Trenton, with Senate President Steve Sweeney issuing a statement regarding the report that Rutgers rescinded an offer to LeGrand to be the commencement speaker.
"Eric LeGrand is an inspiration to the nation and arguably the most respected and visible ambassador for Rutgers," Sweeney said. "Eric is the quintessential role model, and a perfect choice to address Rutgers graduates and offer them advice about overcoming life's challenges. He deserves an explanation."
Rutgers spokesperson E.J. Miranda said Kean will still serve as commencement speaker at the university's graduation ceremony. Kean's nod 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.
Keith Sargeant of the Asbury Park Press.