Tyler Clementi, Eric LeGrand: How Much Tragedy Can Rutgers University Handle?

New Jersey university has made headlines for two tragedies in recent weeks.

October 18, 2010, 2:02 PM

Oct. 18, 2010 — -- 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?"

Rutgers Students Face Tragedy, Again

"You wouldn't expect either event to happen here," he said. "There's kind of a feeling here like what else can happen to us?"

Adam Bergo, a junior at Rutgers, is friends with LeGrand. The two young men were in the same circle of student athletes, he said.

His friend's injury, said Bergo, has made the campus feel like it's regressed in terms of moving on from Clementi's death.

"It's been really sad," said Bergo. "Especially everything with Tyler...just having that around campus, you could tell things were moving a bit slower."

"Then things were finally sort of moving again, and getting back to normal, and everyone is watching the Rutgers game and the next thing you know but one of my friends is lying in the middle of the field paralyzed," said Bergo.

"It's just so shocking," he said.

Both Demko and Bergo said that LeGrand's injury is the main topic of conversation on campus and that several students have been using an online message board set up by the athletic department to send notes of encouragement to their friend and his family.

Bergo said that he also expects students to come together for LeGrand much like that did after Clementi's death, some wearing all black in his memory.

"You have to just keep moving, the same way you always have," said Bergo. "Although there have been setbacks for the university and the students here, you have to roll with the punches."

Asked how he hopes to finish out this semester at Rutgers, Bergo responded, "Oh man, I just hope this is the end of the bad luck."

"There's a certain amount of stuff that can happen, you know?" he said. "But what this does do is bring the community together, and within a couple of days, weeks, you'll see a lot of spirit and togetherness of people supporting a cause -- whether it's Tyler or Eric."

"But we all hope this is the end of the bad news," said Bergo.