PITTBURGH (CBS 2) — It was a Saturday of tributes for a Rutgers football player left paralyzed after a hit last weekend.
Throughout the Garden State, high school teams placed the number 52 on their helmets to pay tribute to Eric LaGrand.
On Saturday, the Scarlet Knights had their first game since the devastating injury, a road game against Pittsburgh, and Eric was in everyone’s heart.
As the fun and festivities outside Heinz Field set the tone for an exciting Big East matchup, Pitt fans took time to support a player on the opposing team. They signed their names and offered words of encouragement for injured Rutgers player Eric LeGrand.
“I wrote ‘stay strong’ just because he needs the support,” Caroline Leffler said.
“He’s been working his whole life for this, and then because of one game, he sort of just loses everything that he’s worked for,” Kayla Raida said.
LeGrand, a defensive tackle, remains paralyzed from the neck down after he was injured during the Rutgers game against Army las week. On Saturday, the word “believe” was written on each Rutgers helmet.
“My son, he comes home regular and he’s not really doing well right now,” Celeste Beauharnais, mother of one of LeGrand’s Rutgers teammates, said. “The whole team is suffering right now, but they’re very, very supportive.”
Celeste and Reginald Beauharnais went to Pittsburgh to see their son, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, play in the game on Saturday. They are among many Rutgers fans who appreciate the unexpected support.
“We all first are humans. We’re also players, and we’re also kids,” Reginald said. “I think it’s great that Pittsburgh comes out and supported all the fans for Rutgers, the family of Rutgers, and everyone’s wishes are for Eric.”
That support came in the way of thousands of cheers when a banner was shown on the big screen before the game.
For a few hours on Saturday, the Rutgers Scarlett Knights were the enemy – after all, it is a major Big East rivalry. But the gesture by the University of Pittsburgh, and its fans, showed that there are more important things in life than football.
Back in New Brunswick, on the Rutgers campus, number 52 jerseys are on sale in a campus store, with proceeds going to LeGrand’s family.