In receiving the award, Gleason joins previous athletes who’ve been honored, including baseball Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson; boxer Joe Louis; track star Jesse Owens; and golfers Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
“Talk about feeling undeserving!” Gleason, 42, said in a statement. “The list of past winners is filled with enlightened and powerful giants of humanity. It’s ridiculously overwhelming. 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.”
His blocked punt became a Katrina recovery symbol
Those affected by the disease may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and even breathe. There is currently no cure.
Gleason played six seasons for the New Orleans Saints. In 2006, he famously blocked a punt in the team’s first home game after Hurricane Katrina. His effort, against the rival Atlanta Falcons, became a symbol of the city’s recovery after the storm.
Gleason and his wife, Michel, have a son, Rivers.