MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis native Taquarius Wair, who likes to go by "TQ," received huge honors Sunday night at the ESPYS.
During a virtual ceremony, the Mesabi Range College running back from north Minneapolis accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance, named after legendary North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano, who died after a valiant fight against cancer.
This award is given annually to a person in the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination, and that description fights Wair to a 'T'.
Wair was just 4 years old when he was burned over much of his body during a house fire back in 2005. His older sister perished in the fire. Young Taquarius was given just 20 percent chance of surviving, but pulled through. He lost fingers on his left hand, and underwent multiple surgeries and skin grafting for his injuries.
“My life became memorable when I found football," he recalls. "They put the ball in my hands and it was over from there," Taquarius said in a story that aired during the ESPYS.
“When I put that helmet on, walk out to the field, I was just like everybody else out there, you know? Ready to show what I can do.”
Wair's mother, Shawnee, said her son's determination was the thing that set him apart. “He’s not gonna let nobody stop him. (He's) gonna let you know who he is,” she said.
Even with his determination to play football, the road wasn't easy. “There’s multiple times I wanted to quit, but I just know I can’t quit, you know. That’s the easy way out,” Taquarius said, noting that some coaches wouldn’t play him because of what he had been through. “But I didn’t quit. I’m going to college now for football, so I proved them wrong.”
Wair was given the award as a surprise by Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker with one hand who plays for the Seattle Seahawks. His mother wept as Taquarius took the trophy out of a box that was delivered to him, beaming and saying he couldn't believe what was happening.
"This is humbling for me right now. I've just been through a lot, you know? So it's just in my nature to not to give up. My family won't let me give up. They've been through every part of my life with me. This is just another part they get to enjoy with me, and I get to enjoy with them."