The life of a soldier isn't a glamorous one during times of war. St. Louis native and Tampa Bay resident Brian "Taylor" Urruela understands that better than most.
"I was hit by a roadside bomb two days before we were headed back to the states in 2006," he said. "We were in Baghdad, Iraq at the end of a year-long deployment."
Urruela was the driver of the U.S. Humvee that was carrying a convoy of soldiers to a support hospital in Baghdad. Urruela lost his right leg in the explosion and one of his team members, Major David Taylor, lost his life.
"You're kind of trying to speed up with time. You're not really sure what happened. You can see the chaos and destruction but you can't feel anything," said Brian, who now goes by his middle name, Taylor, in part to honor the man who died that day in 2006. "It was intense, unlike anything."
Now, eight years later, Urruela has another chance to honor Major David Taylor and his family. On May 21 at Plant High School in Tampa, he will take the field as the "host" for a Wounded Warrior Amputee Football game – a chance for fallen soldiers to square off with NFL alumni in a charity game.
"They're inspiring to me," said Ian Beckles, who played nine years in the NFL, including seven for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "For them to be out there playing football, running around with one limb or whatever it may be, you know, there are people who are completely healthy and don't do anything. To me, that's inspiring."
The Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team (WWAFT) is made up of U.S. military service members living with disabilities after losing limbs while serving their country. The team includes men and women from all over the country. The "mission statement" for the team is to visibly demonstrate that "the loss of a limb does not mean the end of an athletic career."
Five double-amputees are expected to play in the game in Tampa against some famous Bucs of the past like Anthony "Booger" McFarland, Brad Culpepper, and NFL Hall of Famer and former Florida Gator Jack Youngblood.
"I just can't thank those guys enough," said Urruela.
Despite challenges, Urruela has not allowed his disability to keep him from staying active. He was named the MVP of the WWAFT game at Super Bowl 48 after catching the winning touchdown pass. He had never snowboarded before he lost his leg. He has since and "fell in love with it." He plays on a softball team with other wounded veterans. He plays golf and volleyball.
Now, he'll just be doing it against some of the more recognizable names in Buccaneers history.
"These guys could be doing anything with their time. They have all the money in the world. They really could be doing anything and they choose to come out and support us and play with us," he said. "All of the NFL guys we've played with in the past have told us what an honor it is to be there."
The alumni agree.
"Everyone looks up to football players and think we're celebrities," said former Bucs fullback Mike Alstott, who helped Tampa Bay win its only Super Bowl championship in 2002. "When you talk about our heroes, the vets, and what they've been through and how they've protected us, it's truly an honor."
All proceeds from this tribute will go to support an education fund established for Jacob Taylor and to help fund the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team's service disability outreach initiatives.
-Wednesday, May 21 at Plant High School in Tampa. Doors open at 6 p.m. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
-Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for high school students and children.
-The first 1,000 members of the military will be admitted at no charge.
-25 former Bucs and NFL alums have agreed to attend and/or play. Some of them are:
Mike Alstott, Brad Culpepper, Jack Youngblood, Dave Moore, Charley Hannah, Martin Gramatica, Bill Gramatica, Styles White, Chidi Ahanotu, Chris Hovan, Ian Beckles, Booger McFarland, Mark Cotney, Earnest Graham, Marcus Jones, Kenny Gant, James Harrell and a few others who did not play for the Bucs.
For more information, visit the Wounded Warriors Amputee Football Team website.