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Gleason in April 2016
|Born:||March 19, 1977|
|Height:||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Weight:||212 lb (96 kg)|
|High school:||Spokane (WA) Gonzaga Prep|
|* Offseason and/or practice squad member only|
|Career NFL statistics|
Stephen Michael Gleason (born March 19, 1977) is a former professional American football player who played as a safety with the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL). Originally signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2000, he played for the Saints through the 2007 season. As a free agent in 2008, Gleason retired from the NFL after eight seasons. Gleason is especially well known for his blocked punt in a 2006 game that became a symbol of recovery in New Orleans in the team's first home game after Hurricane Katrina.
In 2011, Gleason revealed that he was battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. 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.
Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, Gleason attended high school at Gonzaga Prep, where he earned consecutive defensive MVP awards as a linebacker in the Greater Spokane League (GSL). He also played on offense as a fullback. He also played baseball at G-Prep as an outfielder and broke the GSL home run record his senior year.
Following graduation in 1995, he accepted a scholarship to play college football at Washington State in Pullman. Gleason was a starting linebacker for the 1997 team that advanced to the Rose Bowl, and a four-year starter for the WSU baseball team in center field; he still holds the school record for triples. At WSU, he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega.
On September 25, 2006, Gleason was responsible for one of the most dramatic moments in Saints history when he blocked a punt by Atlanta Falcons punter Michael Koenen early in the first quarter of a game at the Superdome. Curtis Deloatch recovered the ball in the Falcons' end zone for a touchdown. It was the first score in the Saints' first game in New Orleans in nearly 21 months, during which time Hurricane Katrina had devastated the city and the team. The Saints won the game and, unexpectedly, went on to have the most successful season in their history up to that time. Gleason did not play for the 2009 Saints team that won Super Bowl XLIV, but in September 2011, he was awarded a Super Bowl ring by the Saints. At the same ceremony he was awarded the key to the city of New Orleans by mayor Mitch Landrieu. In July 2012, Rebirth, a statue depicting Gleason blocking the punt was raised outside the Superdome; a news report commented that the blocked punt "etched Steve Gleason into Saints lore and became symbolic of New Orleans' resilience in the face of disaster".
Saints bounty scandal
Gleason collaborated with filmmaker Sean Pamphilon to produce a feature documentary on his battle with ALS that would double as a video journal for his then-infant son Rivers, but among the filmed footage was a twelve-minute clip of Saints defensive coach Gregg Williams openly encouraging his players to injure opponents prior to a January 2011 playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Pamphilon released the audio recording on April 4, 2012 in the wake of the Bountygate scandal. Gleason criticized the decision, claiming that he did not authorize its release.
Gleason and his wife, Michel Rae Varisco, have two children: a son, Rivers, and a daughter, Gray. They were attempting to conceive the first of their children when he received his ALS diagnosis.
In 2015, Gleason was chosen to receive the 2015 George Halas Award from the Pro Football Writers Association. He was presented the award at the Thursday Night Football game between the Saints and Falcons on October 15, 2015. Near the end of the first quarter, he watched as Saints linebacker Michael Mauti blocked a punt by Falcons punter Matt Bosher and returned it for a touchdown to give the Saints a 14–0 lead. Mauti, a New Orleans native and the son of former Saints player Rich Mauti, had attended the 2006 game where Gleason made his famous block. The Saints went on to beat the Falcons, 31–21. After the blocked punt, Gleason tweeted: "Hey, Falcons. #NeverPunt -SG".
Congressional Gold Medal
On November 4, 2018, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana proposed a bill titled the "Stephen Michael Gleason Congressional Gold Medal Act" (S.2652), honoring Gleason's work in ALS research and his battle with the disease. The bill was passed unanimously in the Senate and referred to the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Financial Services.
- "Steve Gleason diagnosed with ALS". Associated Press. ESPN. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
- NOLA.com – New Orleans Saints cult hero Steve Gleason battling ALS – 2011-09-25
- Trimmer, Dave (January 26, 1995). "Bullpup becomes a Cougar". The Spokesman-Review. p. C5. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
- McCarthy, Jane (July 23, 2015). "Steve Gleason returns home for Gonzaga Prep reunion". usatodayhss.com. USA Today High School Sports. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
- Seattle Times – Gleason Grows Into Role At WSU – 1999-10-21
- Seattle Times – Ex-Cougars star Steve Gleason, suffering from ALS, gives some inspiring words – 2011-11-12
- Inaugural XFL Draft, oursportscentral.com, October 31, 2000.
- Thompson, Wright Beyond the Breach ESPN. August 25, 2015
- "Gleason gets Super Bowl ring at surprise party in New Orleans". NFL. September 27, 2011.
- Seattle Times – New Orleans Saints present ex-WSU player Steve Gleason with a Super Bowl ring – Associated Press – 2011-09-27
- "Steve Gleason statue unveiled", Associated Press at ESPN.com, July 28, 2012.
- Howard, Johnette (April 13, 2012). "Right, wrong and the bounty tape". ESPN. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
- "Steve Gleason's Son Rivers Fuels His Motivation to Continue to Fight ALS". neworleanssaints.com. June 16, 2013.
- "NFL Films special on Steve Gleason to air Tuesday". The Times-Picayune. September 13, 2013.
- "NFL Network's A Football LIfe Series Profiles the Inspirational Steve Gleason". NFL Communications. November 21, 2013. Archived from the original on September 3, 2014.
- Erickson, Joel A. (June 15, 2015). "Steve Gleason named PFWA's George Halas Award winner". The Advocate. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
- Schilken, Chuck (October 16, 2015). "Saints' Steve Gleason and Michael Mauti were there for each other's blocked punts". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
- Dabe, Christopher (October 15, 2015). "Steve Gleason after Saints' punt block for TD: 'Hey, Falcons. #NeverPunt'". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
- "Sundance Film Review: 'Gleason'". Variety. January 30, 2016. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
- "S.2652 - Stephen Michael Gleason Congressional Gold Medal Act". Congress.gov. United States Congress. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
- Staff (December 20, 2018). "Congress votes to award Steve Gleason highest honor". NFL.com. Retrieved January 15, 2019.