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Jimmy Collins Special Awards, 2018

While there are many different categories of awards presented by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, some years the committee finds that there are people or groups deserving of recognition who do not necessarily fit into one specific category. For that reason, the Committee presents the Jimmy Collins Special Awards to outstanding individuals and organizations. Collins was a longtime New Orleans sportswriter who is credited with creating the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards and forming the awards committee in 1958.

This year the Committee chose to recognize two individuals, both of whom are being recognized for their selfless efforts to help others while overcoming tremendous obstacles. They are Brittany Grunberg and Joe Este.

Photo Courtesy of Brittany Grunberg

Grunberg was 18 years old and a freshman nursing student at Southeastern Louisiana University when she lost both of her legs after a bout with bacterial meningitis. She had been an active young woman at St. Charles Catholic High School in LaPlace, who enjoyed several sports. Now, she could barely walk on the ill-fitting prosthetics she was forced to use.

Grunberg’s family sought the help of Stan Patterson, the owner of Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates in Orlando, Florida, which specializes in custom-fitted prosthetics for individuals who have lost limbs.

With new, custom legs, Brittany said her life was changed. She attended school in California to get her own certification in Prosthetics, then returned to New Orleans to open her own location of Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates in Metairie. Now she devotes her life to helping Louisiana residents receive their own custom-fitted prosthetics, especially those designed to help patients lead an active lifestyle.

For the past three years, Grunberg has participated in the annual Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic, helping to raise money for the 50 Legs Foundation, an organization which helps pay for prosthetics for those who otherwise can’t afford them.

Photo Courtesy of Joe Este

Este is a former Bonnabel High School Bruin with a dream.

A 6-foot, 200-pound strong safety who transferred from Copiah-Lincoln Community College to the University of Tennessee-Martin in 2016. He finished his two-year Division I career with 129 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 18 pass breakups and four interceptions. He also was timed at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

While pursuing his dream and playing college football, Este also took in his two nephews, Zackary, 7, and Christopher, 6, juggling school, football and being a single parent. A year later, he took in his mom, who had spent the previous two years homeless back in New Orleans.

Now that his college career has ended, Este and his family are still together. He is still working toward his goal of making an NFL roster – he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans this summer and will enter the preseason in the Titans camp. He also is trying to locate his missing sister so that he can formally adopt his two nephews.

Even if Este doesn’t get that golden contract, however, he has another dream. He plans to register for grad school and then to medical school to become a pediatrician.

Story submitted by Lori Lyons of the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee.

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