Saturday, October 29, 2011
Eric LeGrand leads Rutgers onto field
By Kieran Darcy ESPNNewYork.com
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Eric LeGrand made a triumphant return to the football field on Saturday.
With heavy snow falling, the former Rutgers defensive tackle -- who was paralyzed from the neck down after a violent collision in a game against Army last Oct. 16 -- led the Scarlet Knights out of the tunnel just prior to Rutgers' 41-31 loss versus West Virginia.
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After Eric LeGrand's pregame inspiration, Rutgers couldn't hold on against West Virginia on Saturday, writes Kieran Darcy.
"It felt great leading the team out on to the field today. That's the team I played with throughout my career here," he said. "Leading them out on the field was a great opportunity and it really was a great time. It was a very special moment. I can't even explain it -- it was a very emotional moment."
LeGrand was wearing a black Rutgers jersey like the rest of the team, and rode his motorized wheelchair, with an axe on his lap -- a symbol of coach Greg Schiano's mantra of "keep chopping." Junior defensive tackle Scott Vallone and junior linebacker Khaseem Greene -- both former roommates of LeGrand's -- were on either side of him, with the rest of the players following behind.
LeGrand led the team to the 50-yard line, turned right and went to the sideline before quickly leaving the field.
Amidst the snowstorm, the half-filled stadium was filled with chants of "52!" -- LeGrand's former number.
Doctors predicted LeGrand would never be able to breathe without a ventilator after the injury, but he is now standing for 40 minutes at a time in therapy, and predicts he will walk again.
LeGrand has been working this season for the Rutgers radio network as an analyst.
He spent a few minutes of the game in the ABC booth, which he said helped broaden his skills.
"That was fun. I had a great time with them getting some more experience with broadcasting. I am just trying to take advantage of opportunities and learn," he said.
Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.