To most, Steve Gleason sounds like an ordinary name. To the NFL fan, Steve Gleason has an entirely different meaning.
Steve Gleason rose to fame and is still extremely well known for one play. That play was during the first game back at the Superdome in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. Gleason (#37) blocked a punt in the early stages of the game that another Saints player jumped on for a touchdown. Here is a link to the play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYwPmzRs-nc
The play is so famous that it now physically stands as a reminder of the ‘Rebirth’ of the great city of New Orleans after the devastating tragedy. To honor that moment, a statue was created in front of the Superdome.
Although Steve played in the NFL for 9 seasons, retiring in 2008, his name is still tied to this incredible play that went so much further than football, or even sports for that matter.
If you are unfamiliar with this story, you would think this would be a good spot for it to end but no… Steve was only just beginning to build his legacy – a legacy that will live on well after him.
Tragically, Steve was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2011. ALS causes the brain to slowly lose the ability to communicate with the muscles and nerves, leaving the patient unable to walk, talk and eventually breathe. The patient can still feel everything, but they can no longer move.
Six weeks after his diagnosis, he and his wife Michel discovered that she was pregnant. Steve decided to start a vlog for his unborn baby before his ailments took his ability to talk. He wanted to share his stories and memories with his son – now named Rivers. The vlogs are shown throughout a movie about Gleason’s life and they show the incredibly fast progression ALS takes on the human body.
Upon his diagnosis, Steve decided not to just give in. Instead, he decided to live his life as well as he could and in turn has become an inspiration to millions of people worldwide.
Early in the film, Gleason (link to the trailer below), he mentions that after his diagnosis his goals were as follows: to get all of his relationships in order, live each day to the fullest, show people with ALS that they can continue living their life, and continue to live a life that is enriching and extraordinary.
Steve said something in the film that really resonated with me during the current times we are living in. During a trip he made to Alaska when he could still walk on his own, he was doing a video vlog that was taken after a breathtaking plane flight to a glacier. He said, “Be present now.”
The last few months has made me realize that truly being present is extremely important. I challenge you to put the phone down when you are around people so you can be truly be present. Relationships and memories are all we will have in the end, so make sure you are taking full advantage of every opportunity to create and nourish both of them!
Personally, after watching this film it left me pondering two questions:
If I could no longer walk, where would I want to walk?
If I could no longer talk, what would I want say and who would I say it to?
Although Steve has a wheelchair that he uses to move with and eye activated technology that he can converse with, it is still incredibly difficult to do either of the tasks. Those of us who are physically able to do both take them for granted – myself included.
Hopefully Steve’s story can bring you perspective and gratitude. Think about what life would be like if you could not easily converse with the ones you love or easily walk and move to wherever you wanted. Where would you go and who would you call? Would you take the walk, head to the gym, call your brother, meet a friend for coffee just to chat? I suggest doing all of the above just because you can!
After the last few months, which I have called, ‘The Reset’, I hope we are all a bit more aware and a bit more thankful, as we’ve seen how quickly things can be taken away. I think it is fitting that the punt block was titled ‘The Rebirth,” as both sayings represent a time when something tragic was turned into something amazing. How will we come out of this time? What amazing new things will come?
Life expectancy of an ALS patient is 2-5 years after diagnosis and is almost always fatal. During the film, Steve mentions that ALS patients can, for the most part, live as long as they want but most choose the alternative as life is so unbearable the further the disease progresses. This is a powerful statement being that Steve is still alive today – 9 years after his diagnosis. His will and determination to live for his son, wife, and to promote ALS awareness is well documented and truly shines through in this movie. The power of the human spirit is incredible, and Steve’s story is truly an inspiration to me to do more, be more, love more, and not take daily activities for granted. Keep this in mind the next time you could do something and decide playing on your phone, watching TV, or taking a nap sound better.
I will leave you with a quote that was written on a banner shown during the movie at one of Steve’s golf events to raise money for ALS.
It said, “from adversity – heroes are born.”
Who will you be a hero to?