WASHINGTON When the same teams met in the National Football Leagues championship game four years ago, wounded warriors helped New York to victory.
When the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots perfect season in the last two minutes of Super Bowl XLII in 2008, they did it with one of the Armys own as an honorary teammate.
Lieutenant Colonel Greg Gadson, a field-artillery officer with two prosthetic legs, was on the sidelines on gameday after giving a pep talk to the Giants the night before.
When Gadson, commander of 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery, was hit with an improvised-explosive device in Baghdad, he almost died from blood loss. Doctors amputated one leg due to infection and he decided to give up the other to improve his quality of life; but believing he could still serve Soldiers, he decided to stay in the Army.
One of Gadsons old football teammates from West Point was Giants wide receivers coach Mike Sullivan. He visited Gadson at Walter Reed bearing a Giants helmet and jersey with Gadsons old number, which had been signed by Giants players. When he asked if he could do anything, Gadson had one simple request: he just wanted to go to a game when the Giants came to D.C.
They came to town after a two-game losing streak, and Sullivan wondered if Gadson would mind saying a few words to the team the night before their game against the Washington Redskins. He did and the Giants won after being down 14 points at half time.
Inspiration is something thats internal and its impossible for me to measure how I inspire someone or if they feel like I inspire them, Gadson said, reluctant to take credit for inspiring this or any of their wins, although the Giants and media have credited him with providing extra motivation for the team.
At the same time, he acknowledged that something he said must have made a difference: Sullivan would tell him how the Giants players continually asked about him and were eager for him to come to other games. When they arrived for their first playoff game against Tampa, Gadson was waiting for them in the hotel lobby standing on prosthetic legs.
If you could have seen the look on their faces, I knew there was a special bond because I could see it in their face when they saw me standing there. They all either came up and shook my hand or gave me hugs. It was very personal and I really felt very special, he said.
To see him taking a couple of steps was amazing, cornerback Corey Webster told http://www.ESPN.com. We were so happy for him.
Gadson had to miss the Giants next playoff game against Dallas because he needed more surgery on his right leg and right arm, which was also injured during the blast. He credits the Giants with helping him get through eight rough days in the hospital.
I was really struggling, he remembered. It was hard going back in the hospital because of the memories it brought back and it was pretty painful. And I have to admit, I drew some strength from being around the Giants. I thought about them and some of the things I talked to them about and fighting, and that kind of helped me get through the difficulties I was having in the hospital.
The Giants named Gadson an honorary captain for their conference championship against Green Bay, and both Gadson and his 13-year-old son Jaelen were back on the sidelines.
Everyone was concerned with me being in the weather and they had box seats for me, but I decided that the right place for me to be was on the sideline by my teammates, he said.
When the game went into overtime and Webster intercepted a pass from Brett Favre, he gave the ball to Gadson. Hes a big motivating factor for me, personally, and the team, Webster told ESPN.