Rutgers' Eric LeGrand paralyzed

NEW YORK -- Rutgers junior defensive tackle Eric LeGrand suffered a spinal-cord injury in the Scarlet Knights' 23-20 overtime win over Army on Saturday and is paralyzed below the neck, the school announced Sunday.

Emergency surgery to stabilize LeGrand's spine was performed Saturday night at Hackensack University Medical Center. LeGrand is in the intensive care unit there, and will remain there for at least the near future.

"Eric, his family and the Rutgers football family believe he will recover," said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. "We ask our fans and the entire Rutgers community to believe and pray for Eric as he begins the recovery process."

The injury occurred with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game, just after Rutgers had scored a touchdown to tie the game at 17. LeGrand was attempting to make a tackle on the ensuing kickoff, and was involved in a violent collision with Army's Malcolm Brown. LeGrand lay motionless on the field for several minutes before being carted off.

Schiano said he spent the night at the hospital, along with LeGrand's family, several teammates and other friends. "Eric's spirits were as good as you can expect," Schiano said. "He's a fighter."

LeGrand, from Avenel, N.J., is a backup defensive tackle and special-teams player, but is one of the leaders on the squad. Schiano mentioned on a conference call with reporters Sunday afternoon how LeGrand was a member of the team's leadership council the past two seasons -- second only to the team captains in terms of leadership responsibilities.

"Eric is a big, strong, nice guy, who when he hits the field, always comes to the facility with great energy," Schiano said. "A guy who really loves to play the game. I think a lot of people like [the game] a lot. This kid loves it. He's a great teammate."

No further information was available regarding the prognosis for LeGrand's recovery.

"No one knows," Schiano said. "We are gonna believe that Eric LeGrand is gonna walk onto the field again with us. That's what we believe."

"We want to say thank you to everyone for all of your prayers, kind words, and well wishes," the LeGrand family said in a statement. "We appreciate every single thought. Eric is in good spirits and we are praying for a full recovery."

Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com, focusing on college sports.