At 3 a.m. on March 22, 2005, 4-year-old Taquarius Wair endured a life-changing house fire that resulted in severe burns across his body and the loss of all the fingers on his left hand. The fire, which also took the life of Wair's 6-year-old sister Shawnee, has had a lasting impact on him and his family. After slipping into a coma for a month,
"A lot of people look at me and don't think I'm normal," Wair said in his acceptance video during the 2020 ESPYs. "When I'm on the field, I'm just like everybody else. It don't matter . . . My life became memorable when I found football. They put the ball in my hands, it was over from there . . . I put that helmet on, walked onto the field. I was just like everybody else out there."
"I use the phrase 'Don't give up' in my life every day, and I will continue to do so in the fight for my dream."
Despite being held back by past coaches because of the incident, Wair has remained dedicated to the sport. In honor of Wair's passion and determination, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin virtually presented the young athlete with the ESPYs' Jimmy V Award For Perseverance on June 21. The award, which was instituted in 2007, is named after North Carolina State University basketball coach Jim Valvano, who gave a moving speech during his acceptance of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 1993 ESPYs. At the time, Valvano had just months left to live after being diagnosed with glandular cancer.
"It is an honor to receive the Jimmy V Award For Perseverance and humbling to be on a list with the previous recipients," Wair said. "I use the phrase 'Don't give up' in my life every day, and I will continue to do so in the fight for my dream."
In August 2019, the Minnesota Vikings hosted Wair and his family at US Bank Stadium and featured him as the evening's Hometown Hero during a game against the Seattle Seahawks. Wair is now a rising sophomore at Mesabi Range College and plans to continue training until he's eligible to be drafted into the NFL. "I just want to be successful," he said. "Keep moving. Keep your head up. You might have some ups and downs, [but] just don't give up. Follow your dreams . . . I chase what I believe in and I'm here. Let's see where I can go from here. Stay tuned."