Last week while perusing the addiction that is facebook, I saw that one of my friends “liked” the group page Team Gleason.
Most students here probably would gloss over it or at the very least not recognize the name. However, I immediately attached the name to a former Cougar football player who was a part of the 1997 team that went to their first Rose Bowl in 61 years.
I clicked on the page and my heart sunk when I discovered the former Coug linebacker and two-time captain Steve Gleason had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
If you’re looking for his life story (and I highly recommend reading it), then google his name and read the numerous articles that have been written about him because that’s not what I’m about to do and I probably wouldn’t do it justice. I’m not saying it’s not important or amazing because it’s both, but I have my own story.
Steve Gleason was a two-sport athlete at WSU before graduating in 2000 and signing with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent. His time in Indianapolis was short, but he quickly latched on with the New Orleans Saints where he would go on to have an impactful eight-year career.
During Gleason’s tenure with New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina struck. To help with the efforts toward his team’s home town, Gleason reached out to Cougar Nation for their support. During the 2006 season, the Cougars hosted Baylor in their annual game in Seattle where I grew up. Located outside the stadium formerly known as Qwest Field, One Sweet World, the name of Gleason’s foundation, collected backpacks filled with various items that were to be donated to those in need in the Gulf region.
For whatever reason, I was not able to attend that particular game, but I still managed to make my way downtown and drop off my donation. If Gleason and his foundation were able to set this up, the least I could do was buy a few items, put them in a backpack and drop it off. Obviously, Steve was not there because he was prepping for the upcoming NFL season with the Saints and his name wasn’t attached to the banners promoting his foundation, but I knew. I knew he was behind all this.
Fast forward one month to the home opener for New Orleans and more significantly the reopening of the Louisiana Superdome on Monday Night Football between the Saints and the Atlanta Falcons.
Less than two minutes into the game, Atlanta was forced to punt but during the attempt, a long-haired Gleason blasted through the middle untouched and blocked the punt.
“Steve’s blocked punt might be the most significant play in the history of this organization,” then-and-now New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said.
I remember watching that on TV and going berserk for Gleason and thinking of no one better to represent Coug nation.
The Spokane native now resides in New Orleans with his wife as they are expecting their first child next month.