After his ALS diagnosis, Gleason started the Team Gleason foundation to lend support for those with the disease and to raise awareness while attempting to find a cure, according to the Stephen Michael Gleason Congressional Gold Medal Act. Chuck Schumer said at the ceremony.
"While sharing one's weaknesses may not be common practice for people, especially for politicians in an election year - wink, wink - sharing my weaknesses was entirely critical for me to play eight years in the National Football League", he said, noting the importance of collaboration in solving problems and overcoming obstacles.
The short list of past athletes who received the Congressional Gold Medal: Roberto Clemente, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
After concluding his speech, he received a standing ovation from a crowd that included members of the Senate and House of Representatives, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, team owner Gayle Benson, and current and former National Football League commissioners Roger Goodell and Paul Tagliabue.
But, Drew says Steve was nothing but positive despite the tragic news. saying he told the Saints QB he was going to live until he was 109 years old!
Gleason helped to work on the medal's design, which features him in his Saints jersey. His final block occurred against Atlanta on September 26, 2006, the night the Superdome reopened for the first time since it was heavily damaged while serving as a shelter of last resort for thousands who'd remained in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck almost 13 months earlier. The city was still rebuilding from the devastating hurricane when Gleason dove to block a punt in the opening minutes of the game against their rival.
Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in January 2011. It's not for nothing that he's the only Saints player immortalized with a bronze statue standing outside the team's home stadium.
"Talk about feeling undeserving! Not even elected officials, National Football League players or even the most holy saints", Gleason said after receiving the honor.
Former Saints player and ALS activist Steve Gleason received the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, and Drew Brees was among the speakers at the ceremony in the Capitol in Washington D.C. Gleason, 42, said in a statement.
He concluded: "I am honored and accept the Congressional Gold Medal for all the families who have been diagnosed with ALS, as well as anyone struggling to overcome life's inevitable adversities".