With the return of Greg Schiano as head coach of Rutgers football, no one was happier in the room during his introductory press conference than Eric LeGrand. The only Rutgers player to have his number retired who is alo respected across the world as a role model and advocate for those with disabilities, felt the emotions of his former coach’s return to the banks.
I asked Eric what his emotions on this day were and he said, “It’s been a roller coaster of emotions during these past few weeks. To now have it all come together on this day, I’m fired up. Especially when coach says “we need everyone behind us.” It’s not just the big money donors, we need all the fans to be all in to make this place special. We saw what it could be like in 2006. Now we are in the Big Ten, so let’s make it even more special.”
LeGrand was very vocal during the coaching search near the end when Schiano and Rutgers were deep in negotiations. He publicly told the Board of Governors that “you know what to do” when he was honored during halftime of the last home game of the football season, as well as wrote a passionate plea for NJ Advance Media, asking Rutgers to figure things out in bringing Schiano back after initial talks reportedly broke down.
Schiano recognized LeGrand during his opening remarks, stating “Eric, you got my back and you know that I always got your back, and if we don’t, Miss Karen (LeGrand’s mother) is going to knock us both out, so I got you.”
Now that it’s all over and a happy ending was reached, I asked LeGrand what the process was like for him personally. He said, “It’s been stressful, I’m not going to lie. I was getting calls from everyone asking me what’s going on or what happened? Every time a new development in the negotiations happened, my phone was blowing up. I’m happy I can now take the time to answer all of those messages that the job got done and we are moving forward to doing special things.”
In regard to his interaction with former players during the past week plus and what it means to all of them now that Schiano is back, his face lit up. “I talked with Scott Vallone, Hasim Phillips, and others, communicating about everything that was happening. I’m excited because now we are going to see a lot more of former players who are coach Schiano’s guys and my teammates when we played here. You are going to see a lot of them on the sideline during games again.”
LeGrand’s efforts in campaigning for Schiano’s return should never be forgotten, as it certainly helped gain the attention of the Rutgers administration and even the Governor of New Jersey, whose involvement in negotiations near the end helped close the deal. LeGrand is a truly special person that Rutgers is fortunate to have as such a passionate supporter and seeing him revel in his coach’s return was a great sight to see.