I'm not sure how many people knew Steve Gleason's story before Sunday, when NBC aired a lengthy feature on his battle with ALS. The feature itself was difficult to watch, knowing that just a few years ago, Gleason was healthy, youthful and living a happy life. In a way, he's still living that happy life, but the personal tragedy he, his family and his friends have been through has been tough to watch unfold.
Gleason is a shell of his old self, succumbing to ALS as it takes over his body. He was officially diagnosed with ALS just about a year ago, and the disease has moved rapidly. Just a few months ago, I saw Steve in Pullman, when he attended a Washington State football game. Seeing the NBC feature on Sunday, and how his health has rapidly deteriorated, was heartbreaking.
A struggling Washington State team won the game Gleason attended and, fittingly, he was given the game ball. After the game, the players spoke of how inspirational he was, referencing his pre-game speech and the lessons they learned from him numerous times. He had that same effect on everyone he came into contact with during his weekend in Pullman.
Steve's speech is starting to go and nobody is quite sure how long he'll be able to keep fighting ALS. Yet listening to him speak is nothing short of inspiring. Since the diagnosis, he's taken on the mantra of living every day like it's his last. He's traveled the world, fought to raise awareness for ALS and been an inspiration to many.
Gleason has always been the kind of endearing underdog. At Washington State, he was an undersized linebacker that hit like a ton of bricks. He was a part of the successful Cougar teams, a fan favorite for his playing style.
That continued in the NFL, where he spent seven seasons with the New Orleans Saints. It was Gleason shooting a gap like he was shot out of a cannon during the Saints first game back in the Superdome, leading to the blocked punt that served as the game's defining moment. And then it was all gone.
If you watched Gleason's story and were moved by it, visit his website, Team Gleason. Learn more about his battle, about ALS and what he's trying to do to raise awareness.
Here's the video of Gleason's story.