PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Paralyzed former player Eric LeGrand was nervous in the minutes leading up to his debut as a radio analyst for the Rutgers Football Network on Thursday night.
But he delivered like a pro.
LeGrand was calm and comfortable in front of the microphone, and it came through at halftime as the one-time defensive tackle spoke about Rutgers’ 21-point lead over North Carolina Central in the Scarlet Knights’ season opener.
“It felt natural,” LeGrand said working the halftime report with Marc Malusis, “just talking football with somebody else who knows football.”
This marked the first time that LeGrand was at a Rutgers’ game since he was paralyzed making a special teams tackle for the Scarlet Knights against Army at the Meadowlands in October.
While he had fun working, LeGrand said the experience of talking to thousands of people on the air was akin to playing in front of a large crowd.
“You do get nervous,” said LeGrand, who has wanted to work in broadcasting since being in high school. “As I always said, if you don’t have that little gut feeling before you go out there, then you know it’s not right. Before a game, that’s how I usually felt.”
LeGrand said after the first couple of plays, he went with the flow. That’s how it felt listening to him on the radio. But the hardest part for LeGrand was not being on the field.
Rutgers won, 48-0.
“The first kickoff, the first few plays, it was a little tough,” LeGrand said. “Then I just adapted to the game, and enjoyed it.”
During his halftime analysis, LeGrand tried to put his radio audience into the head of highly touted freshman running back Savon Huggins, who ran for the Scarlet Knights’ first two touchdowns.
“I know he is living high right now,” LeGrand told his audience.
And when asked what coach Greg Schiano was telling his team with it ahead 21-0, LeGrand told his audience the coach was probably telling his players to put the pedal to the metal.
“I was in the program for 2½ years, so I know exactly what he is saying to them right now,” LeGrand said in his interview. “I’ve been through it, so I can break it down for them and tell them what is going on out there.”
LeGrand studied for his work in the radio booth almost as much as he did preparing to play.
“Not matter what, you don’t want to go out there and just go cold, dry and not know what is going on,” he said. “So, your focus is the same. You study and prepare as you would for a game.
“It’s a job.”
LeGrand has experienced some sensations in his body and he continues his rehabilitation.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.