Dr. Saturday

Eric LeGrand lives out dream, broadcasts first Rutgers game

Dr. Saturday

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. — The story of Eric LeGrand opened a new chapter on Thursday night as the former Rutgers defensive tackle officially began his transition from the football field to a broadcasting career.

LeGrand debuted as the radio analyst on the Rutgers Radio Network, making pregame, halftime and postgame appearances on the network which reaches most of the tri-state area via WOR 710-AM in New York City, Philadelphia and New Jersey. LeGrand brings not just a passion to the booth but as a recent player for head coach Greg Schiano, the longest tenured head coach in the Big East, he also understands the ins and outs of his former coach.

"I've been with the program for 2 1/2 years, I know exactly what he's saying to them right now," LeGrand said. "Been through a lot so I can kind of break it down for everyone else right now, so they know what's going on out there."{YSP:MORE}

Trading in helmet and shoulder pads for a microphone, LeGrand continues a dramatic story that took him from a motionless body on the field less than a year ago to now an inspirational figure to young and old alike. He admits to more nerves this time three years ago when he played as a true freshman for Rutgers than for his radio debut, but even LeGrand could maybe not anticipate the flood of emotions that came with this game.

Thursday night represented the first time since that fateful Saturday afternoon in October that he has been at a Rutgers game in person. Seated in his motorized scooter with a second row seat in High Point Solutions Stadium press box, LeGrand felt a mixture of feelings watching his teammates play.

"It is my first Rutgers game, it is kind of weird, watching it up here," LeGrand said. "But just got to go with the flow."

LeGrand was once a blur of scarlet, racing on the field he now watches.

On Oct. 16, 2010, LeGrand was racing down the field on special teams duty in the third quarter of a game against Army, getting set to make a tackle on the returner. As LeGrand and the Army athlete collided, his neck snapped back and the 6-2, 275-pound junior who had just turned 20 years old the season before, was unable to get himself up off the turf of The New Meadowlands Stadium.

The heart and soul of the Scarlet Knights, a player known as "Big E" to his teammates, was the inspirational voice in the locker room. His role "On the Banks" began even before he signed up for his first college class or put on pads, dating back to his high school career. Then a junior and a three-star linebacker out of Colonia, N.J., LeGrand was the first commitment in the Rutgers 2008 recruiting class, his big smile and passion for the program making him an instant fan favorite.

"Eric was a major part of the team last year. In fact, he was a big part of the team before he enrolled, as he was the 'Pied Piper' of his recruiting class," said John Otterstedt, the publisher of ScarletNation.com, the Rutgers site on the Rivals.com network. "He is what Rutgers football is all about."

But LeGrand never was content to let himself be just that motionless shape on the field last fall, even as the injury paralyzed him from the shoulders on down. Three months later, he began to feel sensation in his shoulders and hands and recently, LeGrand stood for 45 minutes as part of his rehab. And now the healing process with football continues as he begins his broadcasting career.

A player who was told he likely would never walk again is suddenly standing very tall. With headset on, LeGrand broke down the Rutgers 21-0 halftime lead over FCS program North Carolina Central in the season opener for both programs. He didn't like the Rutgers penalties, three in all for 25 yards against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team, but he saw good things from a defense he once anchored in limiting the visitors to just 78 yards of total offense in the first half.

And since the injury last fall has derailed his dreams of playing in the NFL for his favorite team, the Denver Broncos, LeGrand has focused on a future on broadcasting.

"It's just my dream got started earlier now than I expected so I got to go with the flow," LeGrand said. "Enjoy the stuff I'm doing now."

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Kristian R. Dyer is on Twitter: Follow him @KristianRDyer.

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