On July 25, 2012, most Americans were enjoying the final few weeks of summer. The Carolina Panthers were two days away from the start of training camp. In Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1st Sgt. Cedric King of the 82nd Airborne was walking a patrol that would alter the trajectory of his life.
In the course of his patrol, Sgt. King stepped on an an improvised explosive device (IED) that detonated beneath his feet. He spent eight days in a coma, awakening to find he’d lost both legs in the explosion.
“As bad as the injury was. I saw mutilation, but I didn’t understand the magnitude of what happened. My wife had to explain to me that I had lost both legs. At that moment, I didn’t want to fight anymore. But fortunately, I had people come along… coach came along, and the Panthers had come along. They taught me, that maybe there’s a better option,” Sgt. King reflected.
Rivera learned of King’s story through family, military and coaching connections. When the Panthers traveled to Washington to play the Redskins, Rivera invited King, a longtime Panthers fan, over from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“He was at the hotel waiting for us,” said Coach Ron Rivera. “So I went over and introduced myself, and we started talking. It was amazing just listening to him talk. He really is one of the most inspirational men that I’ve ever talked with, and I said wow, you need to talk to my team.”
King spoke to the team and delivered a simple message. “I know something good is going to happen to me every single day. Look at me… Today I get to meet my favorite team, tomorrow I get to watch you guys beat the Redskins, and on Monday, I get my new legs.”
The Panthers went on to win that game against the Redskins. After the game was over, Sgt. King told Rivera that the next time he saw him he would be standing on his own two feet. On September 2, 2013 King kept his promise by walking into the locker room on two new prosthetic legs. The team gave him a standing ovation.
Not only did King inspire the team, but he drew inspiration from The Panthers as well. He’s become a fixture at their games, banging the Keep Pounding drum and spending time pregame with Cam Newton and other Carolina stars. He used their strength as momentum and motivation for a bold, audacious goal of his own: running the Boston Marathon just 21 months after losing both of his legs. He ran the race for Martin Richard, a young man who tragically lost his life in the Boston Marathon bombing the year prior. King has now run nine marathons on prosthetic legs, a testament to willpower and hard work.
“When you see a guy that willingly committed and sacrificed so much … it puts everything in perspective,” Rivera said. “At the end of the day I want to win and I want to win football games. But also at the end of the day, I want to understand what life is really about.”
“Yeah, I had to lose two legs to be someone else’s gift,” King says, “but at least [the attack] has meaning now. This isn’t some senseless tragedy. This isn’t some bad coincidence. This actually has purpose and meaning… If somebody’s getting good out of this, we win, man. We win.”
Source: Yahoo Sports
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