The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation to award former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow on a civilian.
The award will recognize Gleason’s efforts in raising money and awareness for research into the battle against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Doctors first diagnosed Gleason with ALS in 2011.
Should he receive the medal, he will be the first NFL player given the honor.
With the U.S. Senate unanimously endorsing Gleason for the honor in June, all that remains for Gleason to become a recipient is for President Trump to sign the bill. According to NFL.com, that is expected to happen in 2019.
“Through his work to help others who are disabled, Steve Gleason has changed so many lives for the better,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, (R-LA) said in a statement Thursday. “As more members of Congress heard about Steve’s work, the support for this bill only grew. Steve is a hero to many and I’m proud we got this done to honor a great American.”
Cassidy originally introduced the bill in April.
Gleason, 41, played seven seasons in New Orleans, making 65 tackles and recovering a pair of fumbles in 83 career games. But he became a Saints legend with a blocked punt in 2006.
With the Saints hosting the Atlanta Falcons in the first game in the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina, Gleason blocked a Michael Koenen punt on the first drive of the game. The ball was scooped up by Curtis Deloatch and returned for a touchdown. The play would come to symbolize the city’s resiliency in the wake of Katrina and make Gleason a folk hero in New Orleans.
In 2012, the Saints unveiled a statue of Gleason’s blocked punt in front of the Superdome.
Gleason has devoted his time on social media and traveling, spreading information about ALS and raising money into research. He helped raise money through the Ice Bucket Challenge, famously challenging then-President Obama shortly after Obama signed into law the Steve Gleason Act, which increases funding for people with ALS and on Medicare.
—Field Level Media