Rutgers defense tackle Eric LeGrand currently has no movement below the neck following surgery Saturday night for a spinal cord injury he suffered in the Scarlet Knights’ 23-20 overtime victory at Army.
“I was at the hospital all night and I can tell you that Eric’s sprits were as good as you could expect,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said Sunday. “He has a new set of challenges ahead of him but he will look at these just like he has all the others and overcome them.”
LeGrand injured his spinal cord making a tackle on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter. He remained motionless on the field for five minutes before a backboard was placed under him and he was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center.
“We are a close family and there is no doubt in my mind this will bring us even closer together,” Schiano said. “We’ve been very honest (with the players) and told them exactly what was going on. We talked with them a great deal about how Eric plays, how he approaches things. He is a part of this family and he would want us to go out and prepare and play like he did.”
LeGrand, a 6-2, 275-pound junior, has been a member of Rutgers’ nine-player leadership council for two years.
“It’s a high position, second only to captain in our football program,” Schiano said. “With his work ethic, his ability to stay in the moment, Eric is a model guy in our football program. He’s a great teammate and a guy who really loves to play the game.”
Schiano called Penn State coach Joe Paterno on Saturday night. Paterno went through a similar situation with Nittany Lion Adam Taliaferro in 2000. Taliaferro, a freshman defensive back, was paralyzed from the neck down after making a tackle of an Ohio State running back. Although given only a 3% chance of recovering the use of his arms and legs, Taliaferro eventually regained the use of all his limbs.
“I’ve never been a situation like this before and I called (Paterno) last night,” Schiano said. “I’m going to keep (what was said) between Joe and I, but I just wanted to make sure there was nothing I was overlooking.”
Rutgers plays at Pittsburgh this week and Schiano said it was too early for the team to firm up what kind of tribute the Scarlet Knights will make to recognize LeGrand.
“We’re not there yet,” Schiano said.” We are going to believe Eric LeGrand is going to walk on that field again with us. That’s what we believe.”
By Andy Gardiner, USA TODAY