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Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Saints give Steve Gleason SB ring

ESPN.com news services

Former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who has been diagnosed with ALS, was presented with a Super Bowl ring by coach Sean Payton at a surprise party Monday night.

Steve Gleason
This Sunday, the Saints will hold a fundraiser for former teammate Steve Gleason, who has ALS.

The 34-year-old Gleason revealed Sunday that he is battling ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease; the Saints made him their honorary captain for the game against the Houston Texans. On Monday, besides receiving the ring, Gleason got a key to the city from Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

"At the beginning of the game, I never knew if we were going to win or lose, but I was always certain that I was going to walk out of there with my head held high because I got ready, I had the right people around me and I was going to give it everything I had," Gleason, who retired after the 2008 season, said in a speech Monday. "It's the same now. We're going to give it everything we've got. And I have a calming sense of certainty that we're going to win this thing."

Besides Payton, many of Gleason's former teammates attended the party, including Drew Brees and Scott Fujita.

"This isn't about Steve having ALS," Fujita told the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune. "This is about Steve and his contribution to the (2008) team and the championship. He deserved it."

Perhaps Gleason will be remembered most for his blocked punt on the night the Louisiana Superdome reopened for the first time after Hurricane Katrina -- a play that stirred an already emotional crowd into a deafening, drink-spilling frenzy. Landrieu on Monday called that play the greatest in Saints franchise history.

A Washington State standout, Gleason forged an eight-year NFL career in New Orleans as a special teams leader and reserve safety. He settled in New Orleans after retiring.

Gleason is setting up an organization called Team Gleason. Its mission is to improve the lives of those who have ALS, the symptoms of which include gradual paralysis. Most people live three to five years with ALS after diagnosis, though some have lived longer. Research on treatments continues.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.