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Monday
Oct182010

How Much Tragedy Can Rutgers University Handle? Paralysis Strikes a School Already Grieving

Photo Courtesy - ABC News | Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The excitement of a new school year at Rutgers University has been muted by two shocking tragedies which have left students wondering what else could go wrong on the sprawling New Jersey campus.

What should have been an occasion to celebrate -- Saturday's overtime victory against Army -- turned grim when Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was left paralyzed after attempting a tackle just moments before the end of the game.

The Rutgers junior, a young man friends described as both "goofy" and "dedicated," lay motionless on the field after the hit until he was eventually carried off the field and directly into emergency spine surgery.

It is not yet known if LeGrand, 20, will ever walk again.

"I was at the game and the entire stadium went silent.  You could hear a pin drop when it happened," Mike Demko, a fifth-year sports management major, told ABC News.  "You knew something awful had happened."

"It put a damper on a day that should have been good," he added.

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

Choking back tears, Rutgers head football coach Greg Schiano told the press Saturday that LeGrand "is a fighter."

Demko and his fellow Rutgers students have been through a lot in the first few weeks of school this year, which began with the shocking suicide of freshman Tyler Clementi.  Clementi, a freshman, jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate allegedly secretly taped him during a sexual encounter with another man.

Two students, Molly Wei and Dharun Ravi, have been charged with invasion of privacy following 18-year-old Clementi's death.  Lawyers for both Wei and Ravi declined to comment for this story.

"This year has been really tough," said Demko, 22.  "Every time I look up Rutgers is in the national headlines for the wrong reasons."

Demko said that between Clementi's death and now LeGrand's devastating injury, students are wondering, "What else can go wrong?"

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