By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The best of football shone bright Wednesday night in St. Paul. Wounded warriors took on some NFL greats, in a game that’s become a Super Bowl tradition. Military veterans from across the country met at Concordia University to show people what’s possible with setbacks most of us can’t imagine.

The turf at the dome Wednesday night displayed more perseverance than perhaps any big name from football games gone by — like Adam Warden who joined the National Guard just a few months before the Sept. 11 attacks.

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“I always kind of had that desire to join and to serve,” Warden said.

Warden spent four of his six years on active duty with stints in Kuwait and Iraq but it was a tree in his own Twin Cities backyard that snapped after a storm and eventually lead to Warden losing his leg.

“He came down landed on my back and pinned me underneath it,” Warden said.

He’s one of nearly 20 members of the Wounded Warrior football team who, for the last seven Super Bowls, have sent a message that extends beyond any end zone.

(credit: CBS)

A roadside bomb in Iraq took BJ Ganem’s leg. He helped put the event together — finding his purpose in flag football

“This game is merely about raising awareness about what we can still do after injury,” Ganem said. “It didn’t start out this way. I had dark days, and what I realized was that the only thing I had control over in this universe is myself.”

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For Warden, it’s about showing what he and his teammates are capable of.

“We might look a little different. We’re not looking for sympathy. We can do anything we set our mind to,” he said.

For Warden that’s meant four triathlons, rock climbing and wake surfing.

“We have new appreciation for life because we’ve been in that position that life could have been over but we get a second chance to do it on our own terms,” he said.

Former Minnesota Vikings Rich Gannon and Sage Rosenfels were there along with Robert Smith and Ben Leber.

The Wounded Warrior football team plays a few times a year. Sponsors fly these vets in from all across the country the next game will be in Dallas in September.

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The Wounded Warriors beat the NFL alumni team 63-42 Wednesday night, extending their win streak to 18.

Liz Collin