The Giants won their last seven road games, then finished the regular season with a rousing home loss to the Patriots, 38-35. When the Giants arrived at the team hotel before the wild-card game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the next week, Gadson was waiting for them in the lobby -- and somehow, he was standing.
"It was just kind of a priceless moment for me," Gadson said, "making eye contact with them."
He had been fitted with prosthetic legs and, even though he had difficulty walking, was standing there, accepting hugs and handshakes. The younger players called him "sir," but one veteran felt comfortable enough to chide him, "Hey, Greg, you look a lot taller now."
"To see him taking a couple of steps was amazing," cornerback Corey Webster said. "We were so happy for him."
Greg Gadson Eli Manning greets Greg Gadson after the Giants' win in Green Bay.
Gadson had hoped to attend the divisional playoff game in Dallas, but when doctors performed another operation on his legs, he wasn't allowed to travel. When the Giants upset the Cowboys, the Giants named him an honorary captain for the NFC Championship Game at Green Bay, and he and his 13-year-old son, Jaelen, made the trip.
The wind chill was below zero, but Gadson didn't want to watch the game from the warm suite the Giants had arranged for him.
"He wanted to be right out there on the front lines, so to speak," Sullivan said. "You'd see players would go up to him and he'd look them right in the eye, and you could tell they were feeding off his courage and his inspiration."
The game was in overtime when Webster intercepted Brett Favre's pass at the Packers' 34-yard line. That ball too was deposited in the hands of Gadson.
"I felt like he deserved the ball," Webster said, "because he's a big motivating factor for me, personally, and for the team."
Four plays later, Lawrence Tynes kicked the winning field goal and, improbably, the Giants were on their way to Phoenix. Yes, of course, Gadson will be there. He has become part of the team. Burress, who also comes from the Tidewater region of Virginia, calls him regularly and exchanges text messages with him.
The Giants, substantial underdogs in Super Bowl XLII, have not lost a game when Gadson is on the sidelines. They would not be surprised if it happens again.
No matter the outcome, while the risks and results of war and the game of football are vastly different, Gadson said there are many parallels.
"In war, people's lives are changed forever," he said. "Everybody who knows me has been affected by the injuries, and I'm blessed to be alive. [But] as a football player, I had the same kind of commitment that I have as an Army officer and a soldier. Your mind does not distinguish between the commitment. The emotional, never-quit attitude, the fighting attitude is all the same.
"I don't coach them. I don't call plays. But I think that they represent themselves well. I'm very proud of them."
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.