Video: Eric LeGrand Leads Rutgers Onto Field Through The Snow
October 30 / Glenn Davis / SportsGrid
It was an unseasonably miserable day in Piscataway, NJ yesterday. Only a few weeks removed from temperatures hitting 80, the ground was coated with snow. And it was the worst kind of snowfall - the kind that was mixed with earlier rain, resulting in a wet slush on the ground that was in some spots pretty treacherous to walk on. And this soaking snow fell all day - well, maybe that's not right. Occasionally it felt more like sleet, which isn't too much fun when the wind blows it right into your face.
Through it all, Rutgers and West Virginia had a football game to play. And hey, snow football can be one of the best kinds to watch. There's something that just feels classic, and even epic, about watching two teams go at it, Mother Nature be damned. But it feels a lot less epic to be standing in the middle of it yourself for hours (plus whatever time you spent tailgating), hoping your frozen feet don't mean you'll be a double amputee tomorrow. Attendance for West Virginia-Rutgers was listed at 47,303. There were not 47,303 people in the stands. It didn't look like there were 27,303 people in the stands.
And yeah, watching the game itself was fun, but it was easy to see - or, more accurately, feel - why there were so many empty seats. The weather was awful, and arrived at least a month too early. And even as the home side took a 31-21 halftime lead and threatened to beat the Mountaineers for the first time in a 17-year stretch that seems to every Rutgers fan more like 170, you never totally forgot what kind of weather you were standing in. Putting that out of your mind would take something more inspiring, more meaningful. And right before the game started, the fans who were there got just that:
Yes, paralyzed former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, barely a year removed from a spinal cord injury that put him in a wheelchair (not necessarily permanently, mind you) but also in a position to inspire millions, led the team onto the snow-dusted field. Everyone who saw it hopes it won't be the last - and that one day, he'll lead the team out by running onto the field.
Alas, after such a charged moment followed by a promising start on the field, what fans wound up seeing was more of the same old, same old - a Rutgers loss to West Virginia, this time by a 41-31 score (thanks to a 20-0 second-half score in favor of the Mountaineers). Well, the not-insignificant West Virginia contingent at the game went home happy, anyway. At least everyone can share in one positive - despite the fact that major college sports are pretty much out of control - typified by the recent drama surrounding the winners of yesterday's snow-fest - at least they still produce people like Eric LeGrand.