After undergoing spinal cord surgery throughout the night, Rutgers junior defensive tackle Eric LeGrand remains in intensive care with no movement below his neck.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who spent the night at the hospital, said LeGrand’s spirits remain high and the team his continuing to believe the 6-foot-2, 265-pound LeGrand will walk again.
“I talked to our team, and we are going to believe that Eric LeGrand is going to walk onto that field again with us. That’s what we believe,” Schiano said. “We’ll see the speed with which that happens, but we’re grateful. We’ve had a great outpouring across the state, from alums and our fans and we just ask for their continued prayers.”
The family of LeGrand issued a statement through Rutgers.
“We want to say thank you to everyone for all of your prayers, kind words, and well wishes,” the LeGrand family said. “We appreciate every single thought. Eric is in good spirits and we are praying for a full recovery.”
LeGrand, who played at Colonia (N.J.) High, injured the c-3 and c-4 vertebrae in his neck while covering a kickoff with 5:10 left in the fourth quarter of the Scarlet Knights’ 23-20 overtime win.
He was taken from the field of the New Meadowlands Stadium on a stretcher and transported to Hackensack Medical Center. Schiano and a number of teammates spent the night at the hospital.
“Eric’s spirits were as good as you can expect, and he was cognizant of me being there, and his mom and everybody,” Schiano said. “I saw him before surgery and after surgery, and he’s a fighter.”
The likeable LeGrand, who is a team leader, a member of the team leadership council and always smiling, had plenty of well-wishing teammates at the hospital.
“As you can imagine, it’s a nightmare for any parent,” Schiano said. “He’s got a great family and they were all there last night, and we spent the entire night together. And there’s going to be a lot of nights together on this path back, but they’re there, they are very supportive and it’s one of the reasons he is the young man that he is.”
Schiano said the school has counselors on hand to speak with players about the injury. Schiano already met the team about LeGrand’s injury.
“We’re very honest with the guys,” Schiano said. “I tell them what’s going on, and then I also talk to them a great deal of how Eric plays, how he approaches things, and how we’re going to continue to approach them.
“Eric was part of this family, Eric is part of this family …he’s not playing right now but there’s no doubt he would want us to go out and prepare and play the way that he did. It’s not an easy time for our guys, but it certainly is a close, close group of people in this (program) and there’s no doubt in my mind this will bring us even closer.”
Schiano, a former Penn State assistant coach, talked last night to Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno about the situation. A few years ago Penn State’s Adam Taliaferro suffered a devastating neck injury and defied the odds and was able to walk again.
“There’s no doubt in my mind Eric LeGrand is going to look this challenge right in the eye, like he has the rest of them,” Schiano said, “and he’s going to overcome this.”
Rutgers plays at Pittsburgh on Saturday in a matchup for positioning atop the Big East standings.