CHARLOTTE – Nearly one year after shattering his right leg, Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross can laugh about it.
While accepting the Ed Block Courage Award honoring his successful return from the injury, Gross told about 300 people gathered at the Panthers Den inside Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday that he actually took the injury in stride when it first happened.
Gross didn't feel like he had any choice because of what had happened two games earlier.
"A couple of weeks before I broke my leg, (fullback) Brad Hoover went down with an ankle injury. He was on the field yelling, 'My ankle is broken! Someone help me!' Well, it turns out it was just a slight ankle sprain," Gross said as the crowd burst into laughter.
"We won the game, and then in the spirit of victory, I got on the P.A. on the airplane and did this whole reenactment of how 'terrible' his injury was.
"Now, fast-forward two weeks, and I'm on the field, and I do think it's bad. I said, 'Just in case it's not, I've got to hold this together.'
"Thank God it was broken in pieces."
Gross had the crowd in stitches as he accepted the award, which is given annually to the Panthers player that has most demonstrated courage in the eyes of his teammates.
The award is named in honor of longtime Baltimore Colts trainer Ed Block, an inspiration and faithful figure in the history of the famed franchise.
"It's funny," Gross said, "because the Ed Block Courage Award is an award that nobody wants to win on the team because it means you had to have something bad happen to you."
Gross, a first-round draft pick in 2003, missed only one game over his first six seasons. Midway through his seventh season, on Nov. 15, 2009, Gross' impressive run of 104 starts out of a possible 105 games was short-circuited when Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Vance Walker inadvertently rolled into his leg, breaking Gross' tibia and fibula.
"I remember being out on the field with Jordan laying on the ground. I rolled him over while holding his leg in my hand, and I felt the crunch and grind of the bone," said Panthers assistant athletic trainer Mark Shermansky, who introduced Gross for the award. "He looked up and said, 'I think this is a bad one.'"
Gross was placed on injured reserve, missing the final seven games of the season, and underwent surgery to place a metal rod and other hardware in the leg. He spent about six weeks on crutches but recovered in time to take part in summer school in May and hasn't missed any time this season.
Gross called Shermansky his "first-round draft pick."
"I don't know how many miles of tape he's put on my body or how many hours he's spent stretching me," Gross said. "Our staff here is the best in the league. They do an outstanding job."
Shermansky said that Gross deserved the honor for more than just his comeback.
"His Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the clinics he has back in Idaho to raise money for the athletic program at his high school, the scholarship he and his wife have at Utah…what what you see on TV is a small part of who this person really is," Shermansky said.
Even with all the love shown Gross, he said he felt like he should have been the warm-up act for Tuesday's proceedings. The presentation of the Ed Block Courage Award was a part of the ninth annual Courage House Awards Luncheon.
The Youth Homes division of the Children's Home Society of North Carolina honored Nathan Bailey, a former Charlotte foster-youth, as its 2010 Youth of Courage. Also, former Georgia Tech football player Sam Bracken spoke of how he overcame unspeakable living conditions in his youth to earn a scholarship and become a success in the corporate world.