Rally held for Eric LeGrand

Updated: October 29, 2010, 11:13 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- About 100 students and friends, and most of the Rutgers football team attended a rally to support paralyzed Scarlet Knights defensive tackle Eric LeGrand.

Coach Greg Schiano delivered an emotional, prayer-filled speech during the 90-minute gathering at the College Avenue gymnasium on the Rutgers campus.

Three players -- defensive back Joe Lefeged, defensive tackle Charlie Noonan and offensive tackle Devon Watkis -- took turns speaking about LeGrand and why they believe he will walk again.

LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down making a tackle on a kickoff return in a game against Army on Oct. 16 at the New Meadowlands Stadium. He is being treated at the Hackensack University Medical Center.

"It's been a very tough time, but to the people sitting here tonight, I don't know a whole lot about medicine and some would say I don't know a whole lot about anything lately," Schiano said. "But you know that God answers our prayers and I believe the No. 1 thing we can do is encourage people to pray for Eric.

"He [LeGrand] knows what has to be done and his set of challenges have changed," Schiano said. "But you know what? Eric is a guy who never backs down from a challenge. He will walk again. I believe that."

LeGrand's aunt and uncle told the rally that they believe their nephew will persevere.

Ariel and Cheryl Curet also believe as Schiano that LeGrand will walk again.

"Believe" has become the motto for the Rutgers team since the injury.

"Although Eric suffered a serious injury, his mind and his spirit are intact," Cheryl Curet said. "He told a physical therapist, 'Don't challenge me -- you will lose.' He's stubborn, he's a fighter. We have no doubt he will come through this."

The rally was the first public on-campus demonstration for LeGrand, who played his high school at nearby Colonia High School.

"Eric is probably the strongest person on our football team inside and out, and God would not put this in front of him if he could not move through this," said Lefeged, the team's defensive captain.

John Mauer, who organized the rally, served as keynote speaker. He introduced a video on LeGrand, the same one currently playing on ScarletKnights.com/believe website.

Senior defensive end Alex Silvestro has said earlier after the team finished practice that he had noticed support for LeGrand on campus since the injury.

"I have been walking down College Ave. and I have seen a lot of people with '52' shirts and seen people wearing wristbands," Silvestro said. "That's good encouragement. That's good that everyone is supporting him."

LeGrand's jersey number is 52.

Senior wide receiver and punt returner Mason Robinson was happy the campus was meeting to support the 20-year-old LeGrand.

"I think this is a great thing for the school, for everyone to come out," he said. "The football team is definitely feeling a lot of pain from the Eric's situation. We're just trying to keep growing stronger every day. A lot of people were close to Eric, his personality, he had a lot of friends, and he has a lot of friends. I think it is a good thing to have a big prayer session for him."

Robinson, who had '52' written on his cleats, attended a prayer meeting on Wednesday night at a church in nearby Avenel, LeGrand's home town.

"It was great to be there, I wish it was under different circumstances," Robinson said. "It was amazing how many people were there."

There also has been support for LeGrand from the Army football team.

The Black Knights announced earlier this week they will have red decals on their helmets with LeGrand's number and a small "R" for Rutgers in tribute.

"That shows a lot of class from Army," Silvestro said.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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