EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -As a former Army football player and the commander of a 400-man battalion, Greg Gadson was used to speaking to large groups of people.
But talking to the struggling New York Giants on Saturday on the eve of their game against the Redskins in Washington, Gadson was a little nervous.
So the lieutenant colonel who lost both legs when an explosive device detonated near his vehicle on patrol in Baghdad spoke from his heart. He spoke of concentrating on the mission, never giving up and believing in each other.
``One of the things I told the team is I love football,'' Gadson said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Fort Belvoir in Virginia. ``It has been a big part of my life and it still is from the standpoint of how I am fighting through what I am going through now and how I lived in the Army.
``I don't want anyone to misconstrue that football is like combat,'' Gadson said, ``but I told the team is that it's the same type of emotional investment. If you put yourself in anything, these kinds of things demand your all.''
Down 17-3 at the half, the Giants needed their all to rally for a 24-17 win over the Redskins, getting the winning touchdown on a 33-yard catch and run by Plaxico Burress with 5:32 to play.
After the play, Burress ran along the Giants sideline with the ball and found Gadson sitting in his wheelchair near the bench. Burress handed him the ball.
Burress and Gadson had spoken the previous evening after Gadson finished his 10- to 15-minute motivational talk. The two grew up in the same area of Virginia and hit it off.
``All this happened to him just four or five months ago and just sitting there listening to his story and his determination and his will (was amazing),'' said Burress, who had all five of his catches in the big second half. ``Let's face it, things like that kind of brought a different light on me. He moved everybody in that room with his story. I just wanted to go out and give what I had.''
When the Giants handed out game balls after their first win, Gadson was awarded one.
``Those are the guys who played,'' Gadson said. ``I didn't play a down. My hope is that they take this and build on this and continue to do the hard work.''
Gadson, 41, has his own hard work ahead.
A 1989 graduate of West Point, Gadson recalls vividly the night that his convoy was attacked. It happened on May 7 around 9:30 p.m. The convoy was moving between bases when the explosive device detonated.
The force ejected Gadson from his vehicle. As he lay in the road, he remembers not having his rifle and expecting the enemy to attack.
``As I was laying there I thought to myself: 'God, I don't want to die here in this country,''' Gadson said.
Bleeding badly, his legs seriously injured, Gadson lost consciousness and was revived by a sergeant.
``The last thing I do remember in Iraq was the helicopter coming to get me, hearing the helicopter coming,'' Gadson said. ``I don't remember anything after that.''
Four days later, Gadson was being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. His left leg had to be amputated above the knee about a week later. Gadson and the doctors decided to amputate the right one shortly after that.
``It was going to be a cosmetic leg,'' Gadson said. ``It was not going to be of any use to me. I felt the quality of my life would be better with prosthetics.''
Over the next month, Gadson had plenty of visitors, including Giants receivers coach Mike Sullivan, a West Point classmate.
Sullivan told Coughlin about Gadson last week, mentioning that the team might benefit from hearing him speak.
``I wanted the team to hear from a real hero,'' Coughlin said. ``We can learn so many things about a person who has been through an extremely difficult part of his life.''
It was a message the players appreciated.
``He exemplified what we are trying to strive for as far as being a leader,'' halfback Derrick Ward said.
Gadson currently spends three to four hours a day working out. The rest of the time is spent with wife Kimberly, son Jaelen and daughter Gabriella.
His long-range goal is to walk with his prosthetics in about a year, although he admits that might be pushing it. For now, he wants to be at Fort Riley, Kan., when his battalion returns from its deployment.
``I am not bitter,'' said Gadson, who fought in the first Gulf War, and served in Bosnia and Afghanistan before his recent tour in Iraq. ``I don't have any regrets. My life had been a good life. Like any life, there are ups and downs and challenges. My faith, honestly, and my family and friends have carried me through this.''
His speech helped carry the Giants for a week in the 2007 season.

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