Rutgers team, about 100 students rally for LeGrand

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 nearly 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.

AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report.