Steve Gleason, born March 19, 1977 in Spokane, Washington, was a Safety/Special Teams player in the National Football League. He played college football at Washington State. As a free agent in 2008, Steve retired from the NFL after eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
He attended Gonzaga Preparatory School, where he earned consecutive Greater Spokane League (GSL) Defensive MVP awards and was inducted into the Gonzaga Prep Hall of Fame. While attending Washington State, he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.
Steve was signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2000. He was released by the team after the preseason and was signed to the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad in November.
On September 25, 2006, Steve was responsible for one of the most dramatic moments in Saints history, when he blocked a punt in the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons, which was recovered in the Falcons’ end zone for a touchdown. It was the first score in the Saints’ first home game in nearly 21 months, during which time Hurricane Katrina had devastated the city.
That year, he won the “Special Teams Player of the Year” award for the Saints.
Steve formed the One Sweet World Foundation, a charitable foundation that focuses on literacy and environmentalism. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Steve’s foundation led a group of foundations and institutions in launching “Backpacks for Hope”, an initiative to provide relief to young hurricane victims in the form of backpacks and school supplies. More than 7,000 backpacks and other assistance was donated from across the country. He spent much of his career visiting patients at the New Orleans Children’s Hospital.
Steve, known for his long locks hanging out of this helmet, regularly donated his hair to “Locks for Love”, which provides hair for wigs for children with cancer.
After retiring from football, Steve attended Tulane University to receive his Master of Business Administration degree. In January 2011, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
After his diagnosis, Steve and his wife, Michel, formed “Team Gleason," a charitable non-profit committed to helping and finding solutions for those living with ALS and other related neuromuscular diseases.
His experiences while living with the disease were captured on video over the course of a five-year period and featured in the 2016 documentary Gleason.
In 2019, Gleason was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal, making him the first NFL player and just the eighth individual athlete ever to receive this award. This is considered the highest honor that Congress can award to a civilian.
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