On Thursday, Washington State athletic director Bill Moos issued a press release announcing that Steve Gleason will be the lone inductee into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame for 2014. Gleason has made headlines over the past several years with his public battle against ALS, a disease he was diagnosed with in 2011.
"It's an opportunity to focus on everything he has accomplished, as a student-athlete, as a professional athlete, and as hero and role model for so many. After a consultation with the Hall of Fame committee, I felt it was appropriate, and most deserving, to have Steve as the lone inductee this year," stated Moos.
Gleason played linebacker for WSU in the late 1990s and was a an honorable mention All-Pac-10 linebacker on the Cougars' 1998 Rose Bowl team. Gleason eventually joined the New Orleans Saints in 2000 where he played at safety and on special teams for seven years. Many credit Gleason with making the play that revitalized the city of New Orleans when he blocked a punt in the first quarter of a Monday Night Football game on September 25, 2006 against the Atlanta Falcons. The game was notable as the first played in the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina.
Gleason was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) in 2011. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that inhibits the brain from initiating muscle movement and eventually leads to death. Since being diagnosed Gleason has lost the ability to walk and speak. The harsh effects of ALS would lead many to back away from the public eye once diagnosed. But Gleason has publicly documented his battle and thanks to voice assistive technology that is capable of tracking eye movements, he continues to be able to communicate even on social media such as Twitter.
Gleason has used the "No White Flags" motto and hashtag to promote his Team Gleason campaign. He has insisted on making the most of what time he has to live his life and make a difference in the world. Last year he went as far as travel to Peru to climb the ancient Incan ruins at Machu Picchu. In April, Team Gleason received a huge boost with a $5 million dollar donation from Saints owner Tom Benson to provide assistance to persons living with neuromuscular disease in the New Orleans area.
Gleason's courage in the face of overwhelming odds has led many to dub him as the most inspirational or greatest role model ever produced by WSU athletics. With that distinction it is more than fitting that Gleason be given his day to stand alone.
Below you an watch a Microsoft video featuring Gleason that aired during this year's Super Bowl.