In a hard-fought win over Army at the New Meadowlands, Rutgers' Junior Defensive Tackle Eric LeGrand was seriously injured this past Saturday.
Rutgers trailed 17-3 going into the fourth quarter, when for the second straight week, true freshman quarterback Chas Dodd led Rutgers to a dramatic come from behind victory, but the team would trade it all for the health of their fallen teammate.
With 5:10 to go in the game, just a few minutes after Rutgers had knotted the game at 17.
LeGrand raced down the field, and made the tackle on Malcolm Brown who had returned the ball to around the 20. LeGrand lowered his helmet in the violent collision with Brown, and seemed to snap backward as he landed on his back.
You expected him to pop up and celebrate the tackle with his teammates, but he never did. He lay motionless for five minutes before being carted off the field.
In the post-game press conference, Schiano opened by saying, " If I could just ask you, I know it's your job, but if we could respect his family and his (Eric LeGrand) privacy right now. It would mean a lot to me and his family. As soon as it's appropriate, I'll get word to you."
When he was asked about going to see LeGrand, he said was heading over there [the hospital] right away, and stated, "if we could just move through this [the press conference]".
He had to be proud of the way his team fought back, dealing with adversity both in game situations, many fourth downs, false starts, and eight sacks of Chas Dodd, but all the while worrying about the health of their teammate.
The worst fears were realized when it was reported that the injury to LeGrand was indeed paralyzing. Emergency surgery was performed at Hackensack University Medical Center, and he remains paralyzed below the neck almost a week later.
The university remains mum on updates regarding LeGrand. A report had surfaced that LeGrand may have been able to move his extremities, but that has never been confirmed.
It's been almost 6 days since the play, but it remains fresh in the minds of college football followers.
Support have come out from all over the country including Pittsburgh, the team Rutgers faces this weekend. Pitt players and staff, will display a large banner supporting the Rutgers' defensive lineman this Saturday.
West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart said, "We are hoping and praying for him", and added "we can only hope he can get up, be able and move on, we wish him the best."
Rutgers recruited LeGrand as a linebacker with a 3-star rating according to recruiting service, rivals.com. He was the number 13 rated player in New Jersey according to the site, and selected R.U. over offers from Maryland and Virginia as part of Rutgers' 2008 freshman class.
With Rutgers nabbing a lot of talent at linebacker, LeGrand worked to increase his size and strength and worked his way to the 2-deep at DT. He saw a lot of time, particularly in pass-rushing downs and was a key member of the special teams unit.
Three days later, Schiano spoke about prayer and hope in his game-week press conference:
"To use this opportunity and anybody that is listening or hearing is that I do know this… your prayers matter and all our prayers matter and that we believe that Eric is going to recover. That is our approach and that is his approach. We are going to take it one step at a time. We are not naïve to the fact that it is a long road. One step at a time we are going to do this thing and we are going to do it as a family… the LeGrand family and the Rutgers football family and that is the way we are going to approach it.”
Rutgers under Schiano has always preached family. In the past and presently, Schiano has spoken about "finishing the job" in terms of completing the job of raising the young men with whom he is entrusted by their families.
Schiano proved this by immediately going over to speak to Legrand's parents as the game waned, and spending Saturday overnight with LeGrand in I.C.U.
He has since been splitting his time trying to prepare his team for an important Big East contest with Pitt and with LeGrand and his family. The university is in the process of making plans to honor LeGrand when the team returns home to face Syracuse on November 13th.
Fans are planning their own tribute, planning on wearing t-shirts to that game that bear the "Believe" mantra, with all montary proceeds supporting the Legrand family.