Ex-Saint Steve Gleason diagnosed with ALS

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NFL fans know Steve Gleason as the Saints special teamer who provided one of the great moments in recent league history, blocking a punt to set up a touchdown early in the first game in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Today is the five-year anniversary of that great play, and Gleason (who retired after the 2007 season) is being brought back to the Superdome to serve as an honorary captain for today’s game. But we’re sorry to say that’s not the only reason we’re mentioning Gleason today.

Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune has written a moving profile in which Gleason reveals that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. At the age of 34, Gleason is beginning to lose his ability to walk, talk and swallow. Eventually, the disease will kill him.

And yet Gleason sounds surprisingly at peace with the terrible diagnosis, and he says he’s eager to take his story public to serve as an inspiration to others.

“I’ve thought, what does this mean, how does this help me fulfill my purpose in life? 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,” Gleason said.

One troubling aspect of Gleason’s diagnosis is the possibility that playing football could have contributed to it. Gleason says he has studied the research into whether brain injuries in football can lead to ALS.

“You have people in both camps,” Gleason said. “But it’s getting harder and harder to say that there are no repercussions from head trauma in the NFL or in football. You can’t say that anymore. . . . I have questioned sometimes, man, was this caused by the NFL?” Gleason said. “And the thing is, we just don’t know. Nobody knows.”

What we do know is that Gleason is handling his diagnosis with grace and dignity. Here’s hoping the loudest cheer at the Superdome today comes for the coin toss, when Gleason takes the field one more time.

12 responses to “Ex-Saint Steve Gleason diagnosed with ALS

  1. You will always be a part of the Who Dat Nation Steve. A true class act on and off the field. my prayers go out to him and his family as he fights such a horrible disease.

  2. Having witnessed first hand what this disease can do I wish him and his family continued bravery in this face of this new foe. This Texan will definitely save his loudest cheer for you Mr. Gleason.

  3. Steve, The Who Dat Nation never forgets. Wishing all the best for you and your family. Keep your head up. I have always wanted a 37 jersey…now more than ever

  4. just a horrible disease, one that took my dads life. he also suffered head trauma, which the doctors believe triggered it. hopefully he goes fast, as it a horrible way to go.

  5. That’s horrible. Best wishes to him. For anybody that wants to know exactly how devastating ALS can be just research the story of guitarist Jason Becker.

  6. This guy is a true gentleman and always has been. He’s known for the big play in that game but a lot of people don’t know about how kind and invloved he has been with the people of NOLA since then. He played Saints football and lives a Saints life. Hats off to a man among men.

  7. Mr. Gleason’s noble and inspiring outlook is reminiscent of Lou Gehrig’s retirement speech, made years before I was born yet preserved for posterity, where he declared himself the Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth after learning he had been diagnosed with such a terrible disease. My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Gleason and all his loved ones in what must be a trying time for them.

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