Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
As the Giants celebrated after their 37-20 upset of the Packers in Sunday's divisional playoffs in Green Bay, the man sitting in the wheelchair in a corner of the winners' locker room shared high-fives and hollered as loud as any of the players.
Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, who lost both legs in a May 2007 bombing in Iraq, felt every bit a part of the Giants' family as Eli Manning, Justin Tuck and Chris Canty. Or any other player or coach, for that matter. Gadson, a former teammate of Giants quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan when the two played at Army in 1985, has been a regular at Giants games since the 2007 season, when he began inspiring players and coaches during his difficult rehabilitation.
An honorary captain at the Giants' NFC Championship Game win at Green Bay four years earlier, he was back on the sideline Sunday to cheer on the men he now considers teammates.
"It's always great to be around the guys," Gadson told me in the locker room after the game. "The Giants have been unbelievably generous in just allowing me to be an unofficial part of the organization. It means a great deal to me."
It means more to the Giants, who have drawn upon Gadson's strength and used it as motivation in their own lives.
"It's hard to complain about anything when you see a guy who is a father, a husband, a fighter, lose his legs," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Even in 2007 when he was with us, I never saw one time where it looked like he ever felt sorry for himself. As football players, we get banged up, and sometimes you feel bad for yourselves. But look at him. He doesn't have any legs, but he's learned how to drive, and he's not dependent on anybody."
Gadson also may have played a role in helping to turn around the Giants' season. He was asked by Tom Coughlin to address the players the night before the Giants played the Packers at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 4. The Giants wound up losing the game, 38-35, their fourth straight loss. But they appeared to regain their confidence by hanging with the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Giants went on to win three of their last four regular- season games to claim the NFC East and their two postseason wins moved them one step from the Super Bowl. Gadson will be there Sunday in San Francisco at the NFC Championship Game to cheer the Giants on once more.
"Greg is a marvelous human being is what he is," Coughlin said. "He's an incredible man, a powerful man. The power of spirit. That's what he has really done for us, just the idea that the spirit rises above all these adverse conditions."
Gadson, who walks with prosthetic legs but also uses a wheelchair, is now the director of the U.S. Army's Wounded Warrior program, a post he assumed in July 2010. He regularly visits troops injured during war, and is a frequent public speaker. In fact, he spoke to a brigade combat team in Hawaii a few days before Sunday's game against the Packers.
"My program supports the severely wounded and injured and ill solders with special support through an advocate," Gadson said.
Gadson visits with the Giants whenever possible, and Coughlin has given him an open invitation to be with the team.
"You're talking about an individual who has put it on the line at the highest level, understands all about execution and performance under extreme circumstances in the face of adversity, someone who has put himself in harm's way so that we may enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted every day," Canty said.