They’re unveiling a statue of Steve Gleason outside the Superdome today.
But the subject of the artwork has been doing anything but standing still.
Gleason, who is battling ALS, continues to fight for a life of adventure for himself and others, even as the disease robs him of his ability to move.
The disease keeps the former Saints safety confined to a wheelchair now, and speaking has become difficult.
But he recently rode in a sidecar during a motorcycle rally and canoed down the Missouri River, following the route of Lewis and Clark.
“Our guides couldn’t believe it,” said Clare Durrett, marketing director for Team Gleason who accompanied him on the trip. “To see his resilience and his willingness to do everything he physically could do without hesitation was incredible. . . . There were tears on the canoe, and we popped open some champagne for the floaters.”
His Team Gleason foundation’s also trying to help other ALS patients enjoy similar experiences. They’ve sent ALS patients scooters to stay mobile, another went on a trip to Italy which included whitewater rafting and a hot-air balloon ride.
“We really try to focus on those ALS patients who are trying to live by Steve’s example, who are still trying to live life to the fullest and are not giving up and trying to be productive, even though they have this diagnosis,” his wife Michel said.
But as much as his life stands as a testament, the statue of his famous blocked punt against the Falcons represents more.
“To have a statue of you up 100 years from now at the Superdome, I think that’s amazing,” Gleason said. “But I don’t want this to be about me and that play. I want it to be about what that play symbolized, which was a commitment by this community to rebuild.
“This statue is about coming through adversity. It’s about finding your heroes. It’s about commitment and a rebirth for all.”
These have been troubled times for the Saints franchise, but Gleason’s bravery through a real struggle has been remarkable, and moving to those who live far beyond New Orleans.