GREEN BROOK, NJ - Nominees for the 2015 ESPY Awards were released June 23 and Josh Pauls, a resident of Green Brook with strong family ties in the South Plainfield community, has been named one of five contenders in the ‘Best Male Athlete with a Disability’ category. This is the first time Pauls, a 22-year-old bilateral leg amputee, has been nominated.
The Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly (ESPY) Award is an accolade presented by ESPN to recognize individual and team athletic achievement and other sports-related performance and awards in the ‘Best Male Athlete with a Disability’ category are presented to the male sportsperson with a disability, irrespective of nationality or sport contested, adjudged to be the best in a given year; nominees are chosen by a special ESPY committee and one winner in each category is selected exclusively through online fan voting.
Pauls was born with no tibias in either leg and had both legs amputated when he was just 10 months old. He uses prosthetics to get around and drives a car equipped with a hand-controled device but has never let his disability hinder him when it comes to his love – and talent – for hockey.
“When I was younger I used to want to be like everyone else, but around the time I got to high school, I started embracing being different,” said Pauls, who first took to the ice when he was just eight years old. “Not having legs set me apart from others and I learned to let other things, like my sense of humor, define me.”
According to ESPY.com, Pauls was named Best Defenseman at the 2015 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Ice Sledge Hockey World Championship and helped the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team win its third gold medal in the last four world championships. He also personally recorded 13 points in 13 games, including an overtime goal in the championship game of the 2015 World Sled Hockey Challenge, to lead Team USA to an undefeated season for the second time in team history.
Growing up, Pauls attended Watchung Hills Regional High School – he is a member of the Class of 2011 – and, in addition to being an honorary member of the school’s ice hockey team was also a member of the Woodbridge Sled Team. He was a member of the New York Jr. Rangers Sled Hockey Club team (2002-2008); the New York Rangers Sled Hockey Club team (2008-2011); and the Disabled Athlete Sports Association's (DASA) St. Louis Blues Sled Hockey Team (2011-2015).
Pauls was the youngest member of Team USA when he joined in 2008 and, two years later, became the youngest member to win a gold medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, BC. “When I was just 16 I got to travel to different countries and win championships. I had the opportunity to be on a Paralympic team at 17,” said Pauls. “It’s been really cool.”
Pauls also took home a gold medal at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia; won gold at the 2009, 2012 and 2015 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships; and took part in seven World Sled Hockey Challenge tournaments.
Pauls is the son of Deborah Pauls of Green Brook and Anthony Pauls of South Plainfield. A 2011 graduate of WHRHS, he is currently majoring in sports management at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO and will earn his degree in a year and a half – around the same time he is preparing for the 2017 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championship and the 2018 Paralympics in South Korea. He hopes to continue being involved in hockey in some capacity.
“Whether it’s coaching stand up or sled hockey or being involved in the business or communications end, I hope to keep sports in my life. I would enjoy anything that keeps me in the game,” said Pauls, who is spending his summer in New Jersey, hanging out with family and friends coaching hockey camps at Flyod Hall Arena. “Hockey has given me a lot and I want to give back to it. It is my life and if I can turn this
Voting for the 2015 ESPY nominees is currently underway and will remain open until the live show, hosted by actor and comedian Joel McHale at the Microsoft Theater in Lost Angeles, starts Wednesday, July 15 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. To cast a vote for Josh Pauls, visit http://espn.go.com/espys/2015/vote/?id=12705030&lang=en