<
>

Nets donate to Eric LeGrand fund

NEWARK, N.J. -- With Eric LeGrand showing no signs of
improvement since suffering a spinal cord injury more than a week
ago, Greg Schiano knew the concern and anxiety was increasing for
his Rutgers football players.

So when the team held its normal Sunday meeting, Schiano talked
to his players about their fears, giving them the opportunity to
sort things out.

"I think last night was good," Schiano said Monday. "We had a
chance without any deadline ahead of us, we had a chance as a team
to talk through some things. Certainly, the unknown is a scary
thing. I think there is a strong belief within our team and family
and there is a strong belief in God and what he is capable of
doing."

LeGrand has been paralyzed from the neck down since making a
tackle on a kickoff return against Army on Oct. 16 at New
Meadowlands Stadium.

Schiano said after Rutgers' 41-21 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday
that there has been no change in the condition of the 20-year-old
defensive tackle.

Schiano had no medical update Monday during a conference call of
Big East Conference coaches.

However, he felt the team was reassured after its meeting, and
it is committed to praying for LeGrand and his family.

Looking back on Rutgers' loss over the weekend, Schiano admitted
that the team's concern for LeGrand may have taken a toll on the
Scarlet Knights (4-3, 1-1 Big East). In the week leading up to the
game, he had asked his players to try to leave their concerns off
the field.

"I think it is definitely very difficult to do, but that's the
world," Schiano said. "The one thing that I have tried to explain
to the players is that the world is a tough place. We had a tough
situation, a very tough situation, it kind of puts things in
perspective.

"You still have a game on Saturday," he added. "Now, having
said all that, I don't know emotionally if we had enough in the
tank to compete in the game. It was going to take every bit of our
emotional, physical and mental strength to win."

Rutgers was tied at 14 at halftime, but it was no match in the
second.

The schedule offers the Scarlet Knights a little help, though.
They don't play until next Wednesday, at South Florida.

"The kids have a couple of days to themselves, and then we will
get back into it," Schiano said. "I just think everyone needs to
sort through things themselves, and then come and attack the
preparations for South Florida."

While saying his team is beat up and emotionally worn down,
Schiano believes it will respond. As for himself, Schiano said
dealing with LeGrand's injury has been tough.

"It is definitely a challenge, but we don't get challenges that
are bigger than we can handle," he said. "I think we have to work
our way through it. There is fear, there is anxiety. There are all
those issues. The best thing we can do is get them out in the open
and deal with them and realize we are part of competitive athletics
and there will be a game next week. We've put an awful lot into
this. It is a game we love and Eric loves."

The outpouring of support for LeGrand has been a positive that
Schiano said can't be measured. He has received messages of support
from fellow Big East coaches and administrators and football people
nationwide.

"[It] has affirmed and reaffirmed what a special world college
and competitive athletics is," Schiano said. "There have been a
lot of bad things swirling around college football, but if you look
at the way people have come together to help Eric and his family,
it kind of puts that all to rest."

The New Jersey Nets announced on Monday that they are donating $75,000 to the "Eric LeGrand Believe Fund" to raise awareness of the player's plight.

Nets general manager Billy King said Monday that the money was raised in conjunction with point guard Devin Harris' 34 Ways to Assist Foundation and through contributions from the Nets' players, coaches, front office personnel and ownership.

"We just wanted to find a way to show our support," Harris said. "The athletic community is a very tight-knit group, and what happened to Eric is something that affects all athletes at every level. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."

King said the Nets will publicize how others can donate to the fund.

"We hope that our donation will spur others throughout the state and country to also contribute," he said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.