Spokane favorite son Steve Gleason, who went from Gonzaga Prep to the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League, will receive the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
The ceremony will be at noon (PST) in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol. The Spokesman-Review will be on hand to mark the occasion. Look for updates at spokesman.com.
Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, is being honored for his work helping others who are struggling with the progressive neurodegenerative disease. ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, eventually robs patients of the ability to walk, use their hands, speak, swallow and breathe.
Team Gleason, a foundation and advocacy group founded by Gleason and his wife, Michel, has awarded nearly $10 million in care and technological support for 15,000 people with ALS. With its “No White Flags” mantra, the group aims to improve the quality of life for patients and support ongoing research.
At both Prep and Washington State University, Gleason played baseball and football. He was a starting linebacker for WSU’s 1997 Rose Bowl team and was a four-year starter in center field on the baseball team. He is a member of the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame and the Inland Northwest Sports Hall of Fame. The award-winning 2016 documentary “Gleason” showcased in vivid detail how the disease has affected his life and that of his family.
Gleason played for the Saints from 2000-08. He is beloved in New Orleans for his in-game heroics on Sept. 25, 2006. The Saints were playing at home in the Superdome for the first time since Hurricane Katrina leveled large swaths of the city and the football stadium became synonymous with chaos and despair. Gleason blocked an Atlanta Falcons punt which resulted in a Saints’ touchdown. As ESPN writer Mike Triplett put in in 2016, “That night became a symbol of the city’s rebirth after the devastating storm. The Superdome, which was the image of despair for so many who saw parts of the roof being ripped off while it sheltered thousands of evacuees, was rebuilt in less than a year so the Saints could return home.”
A statue depicting Gleason’s block was installed outside the Superdome in 2012.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), introduced the Stephen Michael Gleason Congressional Gold Medal Act on April 11, 2018, with support from the Congressional delegations of Washington and Louisiana, where the Gleason family now lives. It was signed into law by President Trump on Jan. 3, 2019.