When Eric LeGrand lined up to cover a kickoff return for Rutgers Saturday afternoon against Army nobody knew it may be the final play of his football career. LeGrand made the tackle on coverage just after Rutgers tied Army at 17 and was motionless on the field afterward. It was one of the scariest moments possible in college football and yesterday it was learned that the worst-case scenario had indeed played out. LeGrand underwent medical treatment and surgery immediately to treat a spinal cord injury in the C3-C4 level.
LeGrand is paralyzed from the neck down but his coach reports he and his family are in good spirits.
“Eric, his family and the Rutgers Football family believe he will recover,” said Rutgers head football coach Greg Schiano. Schiano rushed to Hackensack University Medical Center, where LeGrand was treated, and spoke with his player before and after surgery. Schiano is keeping an optimistic outlook and is passing that message to his team. “As I told our team, we are going to believe that Eric LeGrand is going to walk onto that field again with us. That’s what we believe. We’ll see with what speed that happens. We’ve had a great outpouring from across the state and from alums and fans and we just ask for their continued prayers.”
Schiano spent Saturday night at the hospital with LeGrand’s family and was joined at times by various players on the team in addition to Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and deputy athletic director Kevin MacConnell. At one point Saturday night Schiano reached out to one of his mentors, Penn State coach Joe Paterno. Paterno of course experienced this situation in 2000 when freshman Adam Taliaferro burst his fifth cervical vertebra late in a game against Ohio State. Taliaferro was told he would have a 3% chance of walking again but just months later he walked out of a Philadelphia hospital under his own power. The next season Taliaferro led the team out onto the field by jogging and skipping around.
It is everyone’s hope that the same future is ahead of LeGrand.
Rutgers has set up a special page on their athletics website to submit get-well wishes to LeGrand. It takes just a minute of your time and it would mean a lot to the LeGrand and Rutgers family if you send along your best wishes.