The impact former player Steve Gleason has had on the New Orleans Saints goes beyond numbers. While his contributions on the field were significant, especially the legendary blocked punt in 2006, it’s his work since retirement that continues to impress and, more importantly, inspire Saints fans and the world.
In 2011, Gleason went public about being diagnosed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Since then, Gleason has taken all the energy he showed on the field and focused it on helping others with ALS and spreading a message of perseverance via his personal slogan “No White Flags.”
Now, after recently being released from the hospital and needing a tracheotomy, Gleason has announced a new, bold campaign to cure ALS. He referred to this plan as “the single largest effort to end ALS in the history of the disease.” The program, called Answer ALS, looks to raise over $500 million for research and to unite people with ALS. According to Gleason, ALS isn’t incurable but severely underfunded.
Odds are Gleason isn’t standing alone. The Saints franchise and its players will undoubtedly stand with their former teammate. Owner Tom Benson has already donated $5 million to one of Gleason’s campaigns, and many of the players have shown their support over the years.
Inspiring a football team was probably the furthest thing from his mind when deciding on this next course of action, but Gleason’s spirit and attitude will have an effect on this team. Gleason’s stance should send a clear message to this team that giving up is never an option.