Steve Gleason

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Steve Gleason
refer to caption
Gleason in January 2020
No. 37
Personal information
Born: (1977-03-19) March 19, 1977 (age 45)
Spokane, Washington
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:212 lb (96 kg)
Career information
High school:Gonzaga Prep
(Spokane, Washington)
College:Washington State
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:83
Solo tackles:59
Assisted tackles:6
Player stats at · PFR

Stephen Michael Gleason (born March 19, 1977) is a former professional American football 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 2006 season. As a free agent in 2008, Gleason retired from the NFL after eight seasons. Gleason is particularly known for his block of a punt early in a 2006 game, which 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 (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease).[1][2] 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 the Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to ALS awareness.

Early years[edit]

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).[3] He also played on offense as a fullback.[4]


Following graduation in 1995, he accepted a scholarship to play college football at Washington State in Pullman.[5][6] Gleason was a starting linebacker for the 1997 team that advanced to the Rose Bowl. He was a four-year starter for the WSU baseball team in center field and holds the school record for triples.

Professional career[edit]

Gleason 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.

Gleason was chosen by the Birmingham Thunderbolts with the 191st pick of the 2001 XFL Draft.[7]

On September 25, 2006, Gleason was responsible for one of the most dramatic and memorable 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.[8] 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.[9] The Saints won the game and went on to have one of the most successful seasons in their history up to that time, going to the NFC Championship that year.[10] In September 2011, Gleason was awarded a Super Bowl ring by the Saints.[11] At the same ceremony, he was awarded the key to the city of New Orleans by mayor Mitch Landrieu.[12] In July 2012, Rebirth, a statue depicting Gleason blocking the punt was raised outside the Superdome.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Gleason in April 2016

Gleason and his wife, Michel Rae Varisco, have a son, Rivers,[14] and a daughter, Gray.[15] Six weeks after receiving a diagnosis of ALS, the couple discovered they were pregnant with their first child.

Gleason collaborated with filmmaker Sean Pamphilon to produce a documentary on his battle with ALS that would double as a video journal for his infant son, Rivers. Included in the documentary was a 12-minute clip of Saints defensive coach Gregg Williams openly encouraging his players to injure opponents prior to a January 2012 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, saying that he did not authorize its release.[16]

Gleason was featured in an episode of the documentary series A Football Life that detailed his career in the NFL and battle with ALS. NFL Network aired the episode in late November 2013.[17][18]

In 2015, Gleason was chosen to receive the 2015 George Halas Award from the Pro Football Writers Association.[19] 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.[20] The Saints went on to beat the Falcons, 31–21. After the blocked punt, Gleason tweeted: "Hey, Falcons. #NeverPunt -SG".[21]

The documentary film Gleason was shown during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.[22] In 2019, Gleason was awarded with the Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to ALS awareness,[23][24] and became the first NFL player to receive the award.[25] Gleason was presented with the award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on January 15, 2020.[26]

In the Netflix original movie Project Power, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt wears a Gleason jersey in several scenes.


  1. ^ "Steve Gleason diagnosed with ALS". ESPN. Associated Press. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
  2. ^ – New Orleans Saints cult hero Steve Gleason battling ALS – September 25, 2011
  3. ^ Trimmer, Dave (January 26, 1995). "Bullpup becomes a Cougar". The Spokesman-Review. p. C5. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  4. ^ McCarthy, Jane (July 23, 2015). "Steve Gleason returns home for Gonzaga Prep reunion". USA Today High School Sports. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  5. ^ Seattle Times – Gleason Grows Into Role At WSU – October 21, 1999
  6. ^ Seattle Times – Ex-Cougars star Steve Gleason, suffering from ALS, gives some inspiring words – November 12, 2011
  7. ^ Inaugural XFL Draft,, October 31, 2000.
  8. ^ Triplett, Mike (April 6, 2020). "Steve Gleason's 2006 blocked punt symbolized the 'rebirth' of the Saints, New Orleans". ESPN. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  9. ^ Thompson, Wright Beyond the Breach ESPN. August 25, 2015
  10. ^ Grantham, Zayne (November 5, 2011). "New Orleans Saints: The 5 Best Teams in Franchise History". Bleacher Report. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  11. ^ "Gleason gets Super Bowl ring at surprise party in New Orleans". NFL. September 27, 2011.
  12. ^ Seattle Times – New Orleans Saints present ex-WSU player Steve Gleason with a Super Bowl ring – Associated Press – September 27, 2011
  13. ^ "Steve Gleason statue unveiled", Associated Press at, July 28, 2012.
  14. ^ "Steve Gleason's Son Rivers Fuels His Motivation to Continue to Fight ALS". June 16, 2013.
  15. ^ "Team Gleason".
  16. ^ Howard, Johnette (April 13, 2012). "Right, wrong and the bounty tape". ESPN. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  17. ^ "NFL Films special on Steve Gleason to air Tuesday". The Times-Picayune. September 13, 2013.
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ 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 October 16, 2015.
  20. ^ Schilken, Chuck (October 16, 2015). "Saints' Steve Gleason and Michael Mauti were there for each other's blocked punts". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  21. ^ Dabe, Christopher (October 15, 2015). "Steve Gleason after Saints' punt block for TD: 'Hey, Falcons. #NeverPunt'". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  22. ^ "Sundance Film Review: 'Gleason'". Variety. January 30, 2016. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  23. ^ Thomas, Rachael (December 20, 2018). "President signs legislation to award Steve Gleason with Congressional Gold Medal". Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  24. ^ "New Orleans Saints legend Steve Gleason to receive Congressional Gold Medal". December 20, 2018. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  25. ^ "Steve Gleason officially awarded Congressional Gold Medal". January 3, 2019. Retrieved March 19, 2019. Gleason is the first NFL player to receive a Congressional Gold Medal.
  26. ^ "Spokane native Steve Gleason to receive Congressional Gold Medal on Jan. 15". KING 5 News. Retrieved January 4, 2020.

External links[edit]