Despite being paralyzed, Eric LeGrand knew he wanted to lead Rutgers out of the tunnel for a game this season.
He just didn’t know when.
During the summer, LeGrand’s cousin, Mike, suggested he do it before the Scarlet Knights’ Big East battle with West Virginia, a perennial conference power. And given that Rutgers is coming off a tough loss to Louisville and hasn’t beaten the Mountaineers since 1994, LeGrand agreed.
This would be the perfect time. LeGrand approached coach Greg Schiano with the idea earlier this week, and Schiano was all for it. The decision was made official on Wednesday.
“I think it’s the perfect time to fire up the team, inspire the crowd and hopefully lead us to a victory,” LeGrand, who will lead Rutgers out onto the field at High Point Solutions Stadium on his motorized scooter prior to Saturday’s game against No. 25 West Virginia, said on ESPN New York 1050’s “The Mike Lupica Show.”
“I think it’ll be an emotional time for him and us,” Schiano said. “It’s a big football game. Just more fuel to the fire, I guess.”
The Scarlet Knights have lost to the Mountaineers 16 straight times, so they’ll need all the strength and courage they can get. LeGrand will give them all they need.
“This is my team,” LeGrand said. “I wanted to lead them out on the field because this [would’ve been] my senior year [playing].”
Leading Rutgers out of the tunnel is only part of what figures to be an extremely busy day for LeGrand, who was paralyzed from the neck down while trying to make a special teams tackle against Army last October.
LeGrand currently serves as an analyst on the team’s radio broadcasts. He’ll do the pregame show, then head down to the field and lead the team out of tunnel before handling halftime and postgame duties. LeGrand will also be on ABC during the second quarter.
“I’m up for the challenge,” the aspiring sports broadcaster said.
As far as his rehab is concerned, LeGrand can stand consistently for 40 minutes, and will begin exercising his lower body on a locomotive treadmill the first week of November.
“I’m doing pretty well,” LeGrand said. “I’m just being patient and controlling what I can control in therapy.”
Remember: LeGrand was told following the accident that he’d never be able to breathe again without the aid of a ventilator.