We've spent a lot of time this offseason wondering if Rutgers-Penn State can develop into a rivalry. We haven't spent enough time discussing the similarities between the schools.
And in a very cool move by both programs, they announced today that a pair of inspirational icons -- Rutgers' Eric LeGrand and Penn State's Adam Taliaferro -- would serve as honorary game captains when the Scarlet Knights face the Nittany Lions on Sept. 13 at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The two players are linked by the spinal cord injuries they suffered on the field and, even more so, by the way they handled their recovery efforts and post-playing careers.
“It’s going to be pretty cool,” LeGrand told ScarletKnights.com. “Adam is a role model for me. From meeting him for the first time, seeing him on his feet again when doctors told him he’d never be on his feet, he has really pushed me during my recovery. He’s still a big inspiration to me.”
Taliaferro was paralyzed after rupturing a vertebrae and bruising his spinal cord on a tackle against Ohio State on Sept. 23, 2000. He beat the odds by making a full recovery.
LeGrand fractured two vertebrae on a kickoff tackle against Army on Oct. 16, 2010. He remains paralyzed from the neck down but has regained some movement in his core. His No. 52 jersey is the only one Rutgers has ever retired, and he has served as an ambassador for the program through broadcasting and other public appearances.
“For me, it’s an absolute honor to share this with Eric,” Taliaferro told the Rutgers website. “Eric has inspired me ever since his injury and continues to do so each and every day.”
LeGrand said Taliaferro reached out to him soon after his injury and came to visit him during his rehabilitation process. LeGrand has used Taliaferro's recovery as a way to motivate him on his own quest to walk again someday.
This is a very nice gesture by both teams, and when LeGrand and Taliaferro meet at midfield for the pregame coin toss, it will be an excellent way to welcome Rutgers into the Big Ten.