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Former Saint, WSU player Steve Gleason’s Congressional Gold Medal official

NEW ORLEANS — President Donald Trump has signed legislation awarding former New Orleans Saints and Washington State football player Steve Gleason the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor awarded by Congress.

The 41-year-old Gleason has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and Congress sought to honor him for his work as an advocate for people with the paralyzing neuromuscular disease.

Gleason, a Spokane native, is the first NFL player to receive a Congressional Gold Medal.

He became famous for blocking a punt in 2006 on the night the Superdome reopened after Hurricane Katrina. He retired from the NFL in 2008 and was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.

He has since spearheaded efforts through the Team Gleason foundation to develop and provide technology to help ALS patients live longer, more fulfilling lives. Those include devices that track eye movements to help paralyzed people type words that can be transformed into speech. Gleason has used the technology to communicate, post messages on social media, address lawmakers from around the world and give motivational speeches to athletes.

Congress last year approved the Gleason Act, which provided funding to help ALS patients get such devices.

Before he joined the NFL, Gleason was a linebacker at Washington State and a four-year starter on the Cougars baseball team.

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