IF ARMY Lt. Col. Greg Gadson had his way, he would still be in Baghdad, commanding the 2nd Battalion of the 32nd Field Artillery Regiment. As it is, he will have to settle for being on the sideline at Super Bowl XLII. A former linebacker at West Point, Gadson, 41, lost both his legs last May after an improvised explosive device detonated beneath his vehicle. Less than five months later he spoke to the Giants at the request of former Army teammate Mike Sullivan, who's now New York's receivers coach. At the time the Giants were 0--2 and preparing to play in Washington, D.C., where Gadson was rehabbing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "I talked to them about emotional commitment, that being on a team means you put yourself second," says Gadson, who is now stationed in Fort Belvoir, Va. "That's what I learned as an Army football player."
The speech, which he delivered from a wheelchair, hit home. "You could hear a pin drop," says Sullivan. The Giants beat the Redskins, then won all nine of their subsequent road games en route to their date with the Patriots this Sunday. Gadson stuck with the team, surprising them at their hotel in Tampa last month by standing in the lobby on new artificial legs and sitting on the sideline throughout their frigid NFC title win in Green Bay. Says wideout Plaxico Burress, "When you see people like that, you say to yourself, Man, all I have is an ankle [injury]."
Gadson has reason to believe in teamwork. Former Army defensive tackle Will Huff traveled with Gadson from Baghdad to the Army medical center in Landstuhl, Germany, calling home to Gadson's wife, Kim, with updates on his condition. When Gadson arrived in the States, he was met by Kim and ex-linebacker Chuck Schretzman. Gadson says he has heard from almost all his former teammates and coaches, and he puts his experiences with them, and the Giants, in the same perspective. "This isn't about me," says Gadson. "It's about teammates coming together."