Ten years ago, Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Adams was told he’d never walk again.
In February 2011, while deployed in Afghanistan, Adams’ convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED), leaving his heel bone shattered. Doctors gave him a 50 percent chance of ever walking again, and even suggested the possibility of amputation.
Thanks to skilled doctors, several surgeries, intensive therapy and his own hard work, Adams was walking again in just eight months. In October, he’ll run his first full marathon as a participant in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
“I do what I do because of my wife and my kids. I want them to be proud of me,” he said. “There were some times when I wasn’t very nice. I want them to know I’m not the same person I used to be.”
Persistence and determination
Adams’ persistence and determination were inspiring enough to motivate a near stranger to nominate him for Patriot of the Game, and on Sept. 11, before a sold-out crowd at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Adams was presented with the honor during the first quarter of the OU vs. Western Carolina football game.
The experience marked Adams’ first visit to the Norman campus and his first OU football game, both items on his bucket list since starting his OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies online degree.
"I want to finish college. I want to finish a marathon. My experience gives me a competitive edge to keep chasing. I want to show my kids that whatever situation you’re in, just keep moving forward."
“Everyone was so awesome. I had an outstanding time. It was just way more than I expected and something I’ll never forget,” Adams said. “The seats were awesome, but getting to go down on the field during the game was probably the best part.”
The day also marked the 20th anniversary of 9-11. Fans attending the game were asked to wear crimson or white, resulting in a striped stadium that resembled an American flag, and just before kickoff, an AWACS wowed the crowd with a flyover.
“I joined the Army six years after 9-11, but being honored on this day still meant a lot,” said Adams, who’ll graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. “I went to Afghanistan because of 9-11, so this was really awesome, especially how they striped the stadium.”
Adams, a Purple Heart recipeint, served in the Army from 2007 until he was medically retired in 2012. He said joining at an older age than most people turned out to be an advantage for him.
“I was 29 when I joined the Army,” Adams said. “I was old.”
The decision to join the Army came after Adams realized he was going nowhere at his current job. He’d struggled with alcohol and drugs at times and was ready for a change. Due to some past alcohol-related driving charges he had to wait on a waiver to get into the Army, but once his military career began, he quickly excelled.
“I’d lived a crazy life,” Adams said. “Once I was in, I was able to get promoted and was put into leadership positions quickly. I made sergeant in less than three years, which is pretty fast.”
Making an impact on others
Adams was nominated for Patriot of the Game by Hoang Lam. Lam said he and Adams began interacting on Twitter about four years ago and built an instant friendship. Last summer, Lam invited Adams to be a guest on his podcast, Defining Moments, where Adams shared his story.
“Jeremy’s story captured my heart,” he said. “It reminded me of my parents, who fled Vietnam on a boat for 33 days to seek freedom here in the United States.”
When Lam found out Adams had been selected as Patriot of the Game, he said he teared up.
“We go through struggles, and how we define those struggles is on us,” said Lam. “He was told he’d never walk or run again in 2011. Fast forward to 2021, and he’s completed (several) half marathons and is going to run in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon this fall.”
Adams said Lam never mentioned that he had nominated him for the honor, so he was surprised when he got the call he’d been selected. He and Lam finally met in person for the first time at the game.
“We hadn’t ever physically met. We’d been on Zoom and talked on the phone, but we’d never met,” Adams said. “For someone to think that much of someone they’ve never met, that’s just really awesome.”
An accommodating degree program
Adams said he’ll be back in Norman in December to walk across the stage and accept his diploma. He said OU has been very accommodating. He loved his online programs so much, he even talked his wife into getting an OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies degree of her own. She’s currently working on her integrative studies degree.
“It’s just really fitting. I didn’t ever think I could take online classes, but the classes have been easy to navigate, and the school is very veteran friendly,” he said. “I just love that you take two or three classes, and it’s split up into eight-week sessions.”
Adams said even though he’s not attending classes in person, he’s built relationships with his instructors and classmates.
“I really feel connected, and that’s partly because I’ve had really great professors,” he said. “If I don’t understand something, I can always text or schedule a call. I’m very hands on. If I don’t understand something, I need someone to walk me through it. Everyone here has been great.”
Adams said a graduate degree isn’t out of the question, but he’s not quite sure what he’ll do next. Whatever it is, it will be with the support of his wife and two children.
"I want to finish college. I want to finish a marathon. My experience gives me a competitive edge to keep chasing," he said. I want to show my kids that whatever situation you’re in, just keep moving forward."
Presented by the OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies, Patriot of the Game honors military service members at home football games, as well as various men’s and women’s basketball games, baseball games and softball games.
Patriot of the Game is just one of many ways PACS serves military families. PACS is a leader in military education with more than 55 years of experience supporting the educational needs of service members worldwide. PACS brings the excellence of OU degrees and programs to students, wherever they may be. Visit our website for more information on our degrees and our offerings for service members.
Do you know someone who deserves to be Patriot of the Game? To nominate a service member, visitpatriot.pacs.ou.eduand tell us why.