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“If we have a purpose in life beyond being a cog in the human machine, mine is to help inspire people and that’s pretty cool. I would like to motivate the world.”

Steve Gleason is a WSU alum and former NFL player who was inducted into Washington State University’s Hall of Fame during the 2014 Apple Cup. Gleason played four years at WSU (1995-99). lettering in both football and baseball during his time here. His accolades were more noteworthy on the football field, as Gleason was selected All-Pac-10 three times and was also honored as an Academic All-Pac-10 4 times while enrolled as well. Gleason went on to play eight seasons for the New Orleans Saints (2000-07), but his story isn’t about his accomplishments on the field. It’s about what he’s done post-career that speaks volumes about his legacy.

Gleason went undrafted in the NFL draft, although he was selected by the Birmingham Thunderbolts in the 2001 draft of the now-defunct XFL draft. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts but was cut during the preseason. The New Orleans Saints signed him in November 2000 and he remained with the team for eight seasons. He played in 83 games before his retirement. Gleason wasn’t a superstar, but he was beloved and embraced by the Saints, their fans and the community of New Orleans. When the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, Gleason wasn’t on the team but after Gleason’s revelation of his diagnosis of ALS in 2011 the team gave Gleason a Super Bowl ring and then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave Gleason a key to the city as gifts.

On September 25, 2006, the Saints were playing back in New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina ravished the city in late 2005. Early in the first quarter, Gleason slipped up the middle through the Atlanta Falcons’ line and blocked the punt of Michael Koenen, which was recovered for a touchdown. It was the first TD of the season at home and whipped the sell-out Superdome crowd into an even crazier frenzy.


In 2011, Gleason announced he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

ALS is a disease that results in the death of upper and lower motor neurons. Upper neurons are found in the brain and communicate with the lower neurons, which are located in the spine. The disorder affects voluntary movement, as the muscles eventually grow weak and degenerate. Symptoms of the disease are muscle stiffness, followed by twitching and eventually loss of strength and motor skills. Eventually, even acts as simple as breathing require labored effort. Respiratory failure is the most common cause of death, although malnutrition and dehydration can also result when the swallowing muscles are effected.

ALS is a disease that can be genetic, although 90-95 percent of cases have unknown causes. Most people who are diagnosed with the disease pass away within five years, although there are some outliers such as Stephen Hawking.

Gleason started a foundation during his playing days, One Sweet World Foundation. After Hurricane Katrina, Gleason led workers from his foundation and other foundations as well in distributing “Backpacks for Hope”, which spread supplies and hurricane relief to young victims. Over 7,000 backpacks were donated and distributed overall. Gleason would also donate his hair to “Locks of Love” for cancer victims and spent much of his time in the New Orleans Children’s Hospital.

After being diagnosed with ALS, Gleason started two other foundations, The Gleason Initiative Foundation and The Gleason Family Trust, which he later united under the name “Team Gleason.” Team Gleason travels around the country fundraising to help provide care and technology for other people who are also fighting ALS. Team Gleason also helps spread awareness about ALS and tells the courageous stories of individuals who refuse to roll over and surrender to ALS.

In 2012, the Saints unveiled a bronze statue of Gleason’s block and entitled the sculpture “Rebirth.” The punt is looked at and embraced by the community of New Orleans as a symbol of the community’s ability to regroup after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Saints team owner Tom Benson also said that the statue would also pay tribute to Gleason for the lasting impact he has had on countless others’ lives.

Earlier today, the Senate approved a bill that will make voice-operated equipment more readily available for ALS patients who are covered by Medicare and Medicaid. The bill is named “The Steve Gleason Act of 2015”.






  1. 5. I think that this topic is really interesting because it’s caused such a craze the last few years, and its really cool that its so close to the hearts of WSU students and alumni. I’ve only ever known a few things about him but its awesome knowing the background of such an inspirational guy.

  2. Hey, Kevin! I think your mind and my mind might be thinking alike on some kind of realm. You and I not only have the same WordPress theme, but we actually chose the same topic! My original presentation was on Steve Gleason before I changed it to CrossFit. But I am so glad someone decided to present on him. Steve Gleason is an incredible man and human being. Gleason is someone that makes me proud to say I’m a Coug. His story is amazing and I think you told it well in your blog. You gave us a lot of background info that I think not many people are aware of. He really does have so much to his life between ALS and his time as a Coug. Thanks for picking Steve Gleason and great job, Kevin!

  3. Great topic in Steve Gleason. Home favorite here in Pullman, but I think you went in-depth with this topic, not only about his short NFL career, but the ALS as well. You gave good facts about ALS and examples, such as Stephen Hawkins. Some people do not know what he did in the NFL, so it is nice that you provided the block punt that he did. Good Job.

  4. I think this an interesting story. He has a great story. I agree with you in how he did not let ALS stop him. In my opinion, he actually uses his ALS disease as his platform to advocate awareness for ALS and other causes he supports. Inspirational person for sure.

  5. Such an amazing man deserves our support for what he has done for others and for being a fighter. I am pleased that you did not just focus on his sports or the disease but him as a person because that’s what a persons legacy should be.

  6. I really enjoyed your presentation on a Cougar legend and inspiration in Steve Gleason. I love and respect the way that WSU has really embraced Gleason and his family. Even though he never really amounted to much as a football player in the NFL, it’s cool to see the league come to surround and support him and his fight to end ALS. His support for other ALS patients, partnered with the Ice Bucket Challenge, will hopefully bring an end to this debilitating and horrible disease. It’s also cool to see the Saints backing him, giving him a ring from their Super Bowl win. Sometimes, the people in sports show up in huge ways, and Steve Gleason is an inspiration to us all. Go Cougs!

  7. You had a great video in your presentation showing Gleason scoring a touchdown while playing with the Saints. I thought it was important how you talked about not only his football career, but the disease he has. You provided good facts about ALS and how doctors still aren’t sure how it is caused, etc. My favorite part of your presentation was how you talked about Gleason wanting to help people even though he has this disease, and that he would not let the disease hurt him. The video you showed at the end of your presentation was very powerful and gave more insight about his disease and his life. Great presentation!

  8. I really enjoyed your presentation. I like that you talked about him for what he did on the field and for what he is doing to help other people with ALS. I also liked that you included videos of each of those topics as well.

  9. I really enjoyed your presentation on Steve Gleason. Although he did not make an impact in the NFL he made a huge impact in a more productive way. I loved how you talked about Steve Gleason being a Coug and his foundation and how there is merchandise out for people to purchase. Another thing that brought joy to everyone in the class was the commercial or video of Steve and how he was playing with his son using technology to enable him to speak. I also liked how you touched on his foundation great person, great presentation

  10. This is a great topic. I like that you picked an athlete with strong connections to WSU, but wasn’t above and beyond normal human standards. I also like that you focused on all he’s done since being diagnosed with ALS.

  11. I enjoyed that you picked a topic that sits closely with us all. I’ve heard a lot about Steve Gleason in terms of ALS. I have a lot of respect for anyone that can make the most out of life-altering situations, and Gleason has certainly done so. It was also great to learn more about his contributions to the NFL and vice versa.

  12. Steve Gleason is by far one of my favorite Cougs of all time. He was such a great athlete, and he’s proving to be an even better person. He and his foundation do so much to just attempt to help. I love the iconic statue in New Orleans of the block. People never realized that a special teams play could mean so much, and yet it was part of the reason the Saints started to be a threat in the NFC. He has a great Cougar legacy and a great NFL legacy, even if it’s just the one play, that play lives on. Great work on this Kevin.

  13. What a great and informative topic for your presentation. You’ve got some good responses from your classmates. See you in 465!

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