Tulane alumnus and former Saints safety Steve Gleason receives Congressional Gold Medal

Steve Gleason received the Congressional Medal of Honor on Jan. 15 in Washington, D.C.

Courtesy of Collision Conf

Steve Gleason received the Congressional Medal of Honor on Jan. 15 in Washington, D.C.

Gabby Abrams, News Associate

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Tulane University alumnus and former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason earned the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 15. Gleason was granted the medal for his work for people living with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS. 

Gleason was born and raised in Spokane, Washington, and received a scholarship to play college football at Washington State University. He started at linebacker for the Cougars and helped bring the team to the Rose Bowl in 1997 while also starting in center field for the WSU baseball team. 

From 2000-08, Gleason played safety for the New Orleans Saints. His most iconic play came in the form of a punt block on the first night that the Superdome was reopened following Hurricane Katrina. This moment was later memorialized with a statue titled “Rebirth.” 

Gleason earned his MBA from Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business in 2011 as well as an honorary degree from the school during the May 2018 Commencement ceremony. 

Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. Following his diagnosis, Gleason launched innovative projects through his charity, Team Gleason, which have transformed the lives of those living with ALS. These technologies include devices that track eye movements and allow paralyzed people to type and communicate more effectively. 

At the Gold Medal ceremony Gleason, who communicates through a computer-generated voice, described receiving the medal as “a sublime honor for me … that represents some joy, some encouragement and some triumphs for the tens of families living with ALS and others living with disabilities or experiencing anguish, tragedy or adversity.”

“[Gleason] holds a special place in the heart of every Louisianan, not only for his on-field heroics, but for his work raising support and assistance for those battling ALS,” Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy said in a press release. “Steve is an inspiration to millions of Americans, and I can’t think of anyone who deserves this honor more.” 

Saints quarterback Drew Brees as well as Saints owner Gayle Benson were in the audience at the ceremony. Previous medal recipients include Thomas Edison, Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela among other widely-respected figures.