Thinking of Eric LeGrand

One of the great things about being the publisher of is meeting people like Rutgers junior defensive tackle Eric LeGrand. His smile is infectious and his likability is off the charts, which is why he is a popular member of the Scarlet Knights, and a person to look forward to speaking as he battles the neck injury that felled him Saturday against Army.

Eric LeGrand impressed me with his play on the field, so less than two weeks after I began as publisher of, I requested an interview after practice.

We sat on a bench in the "bullpen" area of the practice field, talking about his move to defensive tackle. He was smiling the whole time, as pleasant as can be, and it was like I knew him for years.

He's one of those types of guys.

It is a brutal day for the Rutgers nation, an unthinkable nightmare for the Rutgers family as the school announced LeGrand underwent spinal cord surgery on the c-3 and c-4 vertabra in his neck, and he had no movement below the neck.

I lived in Los Angeles for 11 years. I know all about Hollywood endings, and I am praying for one here.

While everyone knows the dangers of football, it is incomprehensible to think a day that began with tailgating and reverie ended in such a punch-through-the-stomach way.

As I replay what took place, from being on the field adjacent to the tunnel he was wheeled through on the stretcher, I keep hoping my phone will ring, or my email light will blink, giving me positive information about LeGrand.

It is tragic whenever a player -- in this case, a 20-year-old kid – is so seriously injured, but it stings a lot more when you know the player, and you know him to be a good kid, a happy kid, a kid who always makes you feel good after an interview.

Many folks know him a lot better than I do. I got to know him over the course of a year, through a dozen or so interviews. He always smiled, always laughed and always gave an honest answer, which meant he always didn't agree with what I was asking, but he was never rude, abrupt or put off by it. I also left the interviews thinking he was a guy I really enjoyed interviewing.

When Rutgers had a bye last month, I interviewed LeGrand while sitting on the same bench as nearly a year earlier, and joked with him about how he would spend his Saturday.

The genesis of my question was about laying on a couch all day, intermittently watching college football, eating a bunch of high calorie, high cholesterol snacks a high-caliber athlete shouldn't be eating, and sleeping the day away.

LeGrand laughed, and acknowledged what fun that would be.

"You can do that, but it's a long day," LeGrand said at the time. "You've got to find some time to sit and watch film."

During a conference call late Sunday afternoon to update media outlets on LeGrand's status, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano discussed LeGrand's off-the-field attributes. He is a member of the team's leadership council, is a dogged worker in practice and is the epitome of Rutgers' "Keep Choppin' " mantra.

There is a time limit players are available to speak with the media after practice. In the case of LeGrand, it makes perfect sense because given the opportunity, I would spend an hour talking to him. It was that enjoyable.

I look forward to the day he walks onto the practice field . I can see his wide, ah-shucks smile already.

I will finally get that chance for that long conversation because no matter what he has been through, I know I will be the one enriched for it.

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