PISCATAWAY, N.J. — The Rutgers University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has announced the members of the 2020 Hall of Fame class including Eric LeGrand (football), Essence Carson (women's basketball), Jonelle Filigno-Hopkins (women's soccer), Alexis Gunzelman (women's gymnastics) and James Ford (men's lacrosse).
"We are honored to induct another illustrious class into the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame," said Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs. "This group personifies the ideals of a Scarlet Knight, setting standards of excellence in and out of competition. Their athletic achievements are etched in the record books and their storied careers continue to inspire. We look forward to celebrating their accomplishments."
Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony details will be released at a future date.
Eric LeGrand (football)
One of the most recognizable names and faces to ever attend Rutgers University and play for the Scarlet Knights, Eric LeGrand has become a source of inspiration, hope and perseverance for people around the world. His No. 52 is the only retired number in Rutgers football history.
Enrolling in 2008 and playing right away as a true freshman, a tackle on special teams during the 2010 season would be a defining moment in his legacy to Rutgers and the football program. On October 16, 2010, as a junior, LeGrand suffered a severe spinal injury during a game against Army at MetLife Stadium. Following a collision against an opposing player, LeGrand lay on the ground for several minutes before being carted off, only able to move his head. He was taken to the intensive care unit of the Hackensack University Medical Center, where doctors determined that LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down.
Despite his injury, LeGrand persevered, resuming his academic responsibilities via Skype for the spring 2011 semester. He would go on to earn his Rutgers degree in labor relations. LeGrand has displayed a tremendous amount of courage, belief and strength throughout his rehabilitation, capturing the attention and hearts of the nation. A recipient of the prestigious Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPY Awards, LeGrand founded Team LeGrand, a charity arm of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in 2013. Team LeGrand has raised over $1 million through its events and fundraisers. The foundation works to find a cure for paralysis and helping improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries. LeGrand has continued to serve as a motivational speaker.
Essence Carson (women's basketball)
Paterson, New Jersey native Essence Carson led the Rutgers women's basketball team to the 2007 National Championship game and parlayed her Scarlet Knight success as she begins her 13th season in the WNBA. A 2008 First Round WNBA Draft selection, Carson went on to play in two WNBA Finals, winning the WNBA Championship in 2016 with the Los Angeles Sparks.
Carson totaled 1,262 points and 707 rebounds during her four seasons with the Scarlet Knights, which posted a .796 winning percentage and made three NCAA regional title games with Carson on the court. Her standout seasons "On the Banks" were a preview of the success that Carson would cultivate during her professional and international basketball career. Following the 2007 Big East Championship crown, Carson and the Scarlet Knights appeared in the program's second NCAA Final Four and reached the National Championship game. That year, she was named an AP Honorable Mention All-American, Kodak/WBCA Regional All-American, First Team All-Big East and a Wade Trophy candidate as one of the top players in the nation.
In addition to standout offensive numbers, Carson was a staple in Rutgers' signature defensive schemes that put the program at the top of the women's basketball national scene. She closed her career with three consecutive Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors. Carson added prestigious accolades following her senior season, including another AP All-America Honorable Mention and candidacy for the Wade Trophy, the Naismith National Player of the Year and the Senior CLASS Award for excellence in character, classroom, community, and competition.
Her Scarlet jersey was interchangeable with the Red, White and Blue as Carson represented her country with Team USA throughout her amateur career. She was a four-time gold medalist with the Team USA U18 team at the 2004 FIBA America Championships, the U19 team at the 2005 U19 World Championships, the U20 team at the 2016 FIBA Americas Under-20 Championship for Women and the U21 team at the 2007 FIBA Under-21 World Championship for Women.
The 2011 WNBA All-Star stayed sharp in-between seasons overseas, playing pro ball with teams in Latvia, Italy, France, Hungary, Spain and Turkey and is currently suiting up for the 2020 season with the Washington Mystics.
Alexis Gunzelman (women's gymnastics)
One of the most accomplished and decorated gymnasts in Rutgers history, Alexis Gunzelman's storied career from a walk-on to the only all-around national qualifier in program history spanned from 2011-14. Gunzelman registered nine All-EAGL selections, four EAGL All-Academic Team honors, three Team MVP awards and three NCAA Regional appearances.
Gunzelman holds numerous records for the program to this day. Competing in 51 career meets, she earned nine All-EAGL selections, as well as seven first-team honors, which both mark the most for a Scarlet Knight.
The Tabernacle, New Jersey, native holds the NCAA-meet records for RU on uneven bars (9.825) and all-around (39.175). Her career-high all-around mark of 39.400 stands second in program history. Her score of 39.175 at NCAA Regionals, which tied for second among the 14 competitors to send her to Nationals, is tied for the highest all-around score by a Rutgers gymnast at the NCAA level.
Gunzelman cemented her legacy in 2014 as one of only two Scarlet Knights to qualify for NCAA Nationals and the only to make it as an all-arounder. She joined Courtney Turner (floor exercise, 2002), a 2014 inductee to the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame, as the only other Scarlet Knight to reach the highest stage.
Scoring a 39 or better in all-around a school-record 13 times, Gunzelman lifted the Scarlet Knights' EAGL Championships score each season, capped by a team berth to NCAA Regionals as a senior in 2014. That season also saw Rutgers reach its highest-ever national ranking at No. 16, knocking off three ranked teams along the way and culminated in the squad's first regionals appearance since 2007.
The two-time captain's leadership carried into the classroom, where she earned four EAGL All-Academic Team and two NACGC/W Scholastic All-America honors. The exercise science major completed a secondary accelerated degree following her Rutgers graduation and is now a Cardiac ICU nurse at Penn.
Jonelle Filigno-Hopkins (women's soccer)
An NCAA All-American and Olympic Medalist, Jonelle Filigno-Hopkins recorded a storied soccer career with Rutgers University from 2010-13 and the Canadian Women's National Team. The forward helped guide the Scarlet Knights to four consecutive NCAA appearances during her time "On the Banks" and aided Team Canada in collecting a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.
As a Scarlet Knight, Filigno-Hopkins finished her career as one of the most accomplished players in school history. Her 17 game-winning goals remains atop the Rutgers' career record list. She also stands at fourth with 33 goals and 79 points, as well as sixth with 187 shots. On the single-season charts, she is tied for first with 15 goals in a single year. Additionally, she flourished in one-on-one matchups with goalkeepers, going 8-of-9 in penalty kicks during her career.
Overall, the 2014 recipient of the Rutgers Headley Singer Award was a two-time NSCAA All-Region, three-time all-conference, and three-time all-academic honoree. She claimed Second Team All-America and First Team All-Big East status in 2012 after posting 15 goals, five assists, seven game-winners and a flawless 3-for-3 mark in penalty kicks. In 2013, Filigno-Hopkins was named a candidate for the MAC Herman Trophy, the most prestigious honor in collegiate soccer, and was a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award. Additionally, she went on to play professionally in the National Women's Soccer League for Sky Blue FC following graduation.
A native of Mississauga, Ontario, Filigno-Hopkins earned a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games, scoring the game-winner in the quarterfinals against Great Britain. She was also a 2010 CONCACAF champion and helped secure a CONCACAF youth title in 2008. Overall, the two-time Canada U-20 Player of the Year (2008, 2010) saw action in two Olympic games (2008, 2012) and two FIFA Women's World Cups (2008 U-20, 2011).
James Ford (men's lacrosse)
James Ford was a groundbreaking player for Rutgers men's lacrosse from 1977-1980. During his tenure, he became a three-time All-American, including a Second Team honor in 1980. Ford was the program's first African American captain, as well as the first African American to receive All-American honors.
Ford is Rutgers' all-time leader in assists with 131 and added 70 goals to sit fourth all-time with 201 career points. As a senior in 1980, he posted 73 points, a then-record that currently stands as the second-most all-time in a single season for a Scarlet Knight. His 51 assists in 1978 are the second most for a RU player in a single season.
A four-year letter winner, Ford was a three-time recipient of the team's Alfred Sasser Trophy, an honor awarded to a team member who made the most assists during the year. Additionally, in 1979 Ford was also named the team's William Miller Trophy winner, an accolade bestowed to a team member in good academic standing who, by his own example, constituted an inspiration to his teammates and made the greatest contribution to the team in the season's play. In 1980, he was selected to participate in the prestigious North vs. South Senior All-Star Game and earned Rutgers University's Paul Robeson Award.
A two-time participant in World Team tryouts, Ford played for four years on the New Jersey Lacrosse Club and played in the 2006 Masters at the World Games in Canada. Ford also spent the 1980-81 season as an assistant coach at Rutgers.
Prior to Rutgers, Ford excelled at Hempstead High School in Long Island, New York. A two-time captain, he earned All-South Shore honors as a senior with 118 points, 62 goals and 56 assists, which led the South Shore. He posted a total of 228 points in his career behind 121 goals and 107 assists. He was inducted into the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2008.