Eric LeGrand leads Rutgers onto field

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.

"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.