An Injured Soldier Creates Some Giant Emotions

Gadson's life was indeed saved, but a week later, when his arteries began to deteriorate because of an infection, doctors amputated his left leg. One week after that, they took the right.

Sullivan, who had been in and out of touch with Gadson, came to visit him at Walter Reed in mid-June.

"It was very, very moving," Sullivan said. "He was such an amazing player in college, fast and strong, and then you see someone in the chair, in a life-altering type of condition, it was tough to see. I went there to lift his spirits -- and he lifted mine."

Sullivan presented Gadson with a Giants jersey bearing his name and No. 98, his number at West Point. There was a helmet, a hat -- and a reconnection. Sullivan asked him if there was anything he could do for him.

"Well," Gadson said, "when you guys come to town, I would love to see you guys play."

Before the Sept. 23 game at Washington, Sullivan mentioned Gadson to Coughlin.

"I have so much respect for those serving our country in Iraq," Coughlin said. "He's a real hero, he's the real deal. This is a guy who's given a tremendous sacrifice of himself so we can sleep under the blanket of freedom, so I wanted to meet this guy."

On a Saturday night at the Giants' hotel, following the offense, defense and special-teams meetings, Sullivan introduced Gadson to the team.

"I talked to them about their gifts as athletes, and their privilege and special opportunity that they have," Gadson said. "I told them that when you're deployed, we're fighting for our country and our flag and mom and dad and apple pie, but when it comes down to it, those things are the furthest thing from your mind.

"You're fighting for that guy that is right next to you. Just like my soldiers, they came and fought for me and saved my life. I told them about the 18-year-old PFC medic that didn't want me to lose consciousness. He's yelling at me and just literally willing me to stay conscious and keep fighting."

The Giants, to a man, were moved.

"I never remember a room being that quiet," Sullivan said. "As the meeting broke, it was a standing ovation."

Said Pierce, "It really put [things] into perspective for us, because at the time we were an 0-2 team, and we didn't know which way we were going."

The Giants' defense had allowed a total of 80 points in their two previous losses, to Dallas and Green Bay, and they were trailing the Redskins 17-3 at halftime. But the Giants scored three unanswered touchdowns in the second half, the last one a 33-yard pass from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress with 5:22 left.

Burress did not spike the ball. Instead, he sprinted to the Giants' sideline and dropped it into the lap of Gadson, who was sitting in a wheelchair.

"That's when," Gadson said, "I became one of the Giants."

The Giants' season may well have swung on the final 51 seconds of that game. Washington had a first-and-goal at the Giants' 1-yard line when quarterback Jason Campbell spiked the ball. The Giants stopped the Redskins on the next three plays to win the game.

"To see a guy fight in those circumstances, you really can't help but give your best and give your all," said defensive end Justin Tuck, who helped stop Redskins running back Ladell Betts on fourth down. "It kind of put us in that situation to stop taking things for granted. We really focused from that point on."

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