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Beloved Saints Legend Getting Congressional Gold Medal for ALS Work

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Since being diagnosed with ALS in 2011, former NFL player Steve Gleason has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for ALS organizations.

Gleason’s work has been recognized by his former team, the New Orleans Saints, and the NFL as a whole for years — and now he is being recognized by Congress.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to award Gleason with the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow.

Gleason will become the first NFL player to receive the award. Other athletes to receive it include Jack Nicklaus, Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens.

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“Legislation just passed awarding Steve Gleason the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, who pushed for Gleason to receive the honor. “The Saints football player who got Lou Gehrig’s Disease and has since lived his life in a way that all of us should aspire to. …

“He’s an inspiring man and he’s become a symbol, if you will, of how to live a life in the face of adversity. He richly deserves the Congressional Gold Medal, and I am so honored to be able to work for it.”

Gleason said in a statement he felt undeserving but was honored to receive the award.

Gleason joined the Saints practice squad as an undrafted free agent in 2000 and wound up playing seven seasons with the team.

Saints owner Gayle Benson, whose family has donated millions of dollars to Team Gleason, also released a statement.

“It is a true honor to witness Steve Gleason become the first New Orleanian and former NFL Legend to receive the Congressional Gold Medal,” Benson said. “Along with his wife, Michel, and everyone at Team Gleason, they have unfailingly confronted ALS with a courageous and unwavering determination.

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“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 is known by football fans for arguably the most famous play in Saints history. In the first NFL game in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, Gleason blocked a punt, resulting in a touchdown for the Saints — and a statue for Gleason.

Gleason has appeared at many Saints home games, and he should get even more opportunities to see the team over the coming weeks. New Orleans is one win away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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