In 2008, professional football player Steve Gleason retired after spending seven years in the backfield of the New Orleans Saints battling to keep offenses from advancing the ball.
Since 2011 Gleason has been fighting a much tougher battle, that of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS and more commonly known as Lou Gherrig’s Disease.
Gleason was the genius behind the famous Ice Bucket Challenge that took over the internet and the world in 2014; not only raising awareness for debilitating neuro disease, but raising over $100 million for research into a cure.
In a unanimous decision, the United States Senate has voted to present Gleason with the Congressional Gold Medal. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation and is now awaiting the President’s signature.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian that can be presented to an American citizen. Previously there have been only eight athletes who were presented with the award, but Gleason is the first football player, and New Orleans resident, to receive the honour.
Saints owner Gayle Benson issued a statement on Gleason and the award saying, “it is a true honor to witness Steve Gleason become the first New Orleanian and former NFL Legend to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Along with his wife, Michel, and everyone at Team Gleason, they have unfailingly confronted ALS with a courageous and unwavering determination. Their tireless work to provide crucial assistance and the latest in technology and services has improved countless people’s quality of living. Steve is leaving a truly indelible mark in American history and we are honored to call him a true New Orleans Saint.”
Gleason will join Roberto Clemente, Arnold Palmer, Joe Lewis, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Jack Nicholas, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team as athletes who have been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.