steve gleason, the former NFL linebacker known for blocking a punt on the night the Louisiana Superdome reopened after Hurricane Katrina, has spent most of his last eight years in a wheelchair. His life was changed forever when he was diagnosed with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In the years since, Gleason and his wife Michel have founded Team Gleason to help others with ALS live longer, more purposeful lives. The organization raises money for technology, equipment and care services while promoting awareness of the disease. In the process, they’ve helped countless people like Curtis Spears, an ex-casino worker who lost his ability to speak after being diagnosed with ALS three years ago.
As Gleason and Michel navigate the challenges of living with ALS, they’ve stayed true to their mantra: No White Flags. This has become not only a Team Gleason slogan but a guiding force for their family as they raise two children, Rivers and Gray.
Every day begins with a meticulous routine that resembles the pregame warmup Gleason used to do during his eight seasons as a special teams ace for the Saints. After breakfast and a dose of medication, he’s ready for the day ahead — even when it’s as precarious as this September when his hiccups caused him to lose oxygen. He quickly averted the catastrophe by booting up his computer and pinging “help” to Doiron and Baker, who rushed over with his ventilator hose in hand.