The blocked punt that etched Steve Gleason into Saints lore and became symbolic of New Orleans' resilience in the face of disaster is now immortalized in a nine-foot statue outside the Superdome.
"That statue is not about football," said Gleason, straining to speak because of the effects of ALS. "It's a symbol of the commitment and perseverance that this community took on before that game.
Gleason is a 1995 graduate of Gonzaga Prep who went on to star at Washington State University.
He famously blocked the ball off the foot of then-Atlanta punter Michael Koenen, a graduate of Ferndale High and Western Washington University, and into the end zone for a Saints touchdown on Sept. 25, 2006, the night the rebuilt Superdome and the city of New Orleans hosted an NFL game for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.
In early 2011, Gleason, who retired from the NFL in 2008, was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The terminal condition causes gradual paralysis. Gleason now gets around on a motorized wheelchair.