#NeverPunt: Spokane native, WSU grad Steve Gleason awarded Congressional Gold Medal

WASHINGTON -- Spokane native and former NFL player Steve Gleason is receiving the highest honor that Congress awards to a civilian.

Gleason, a Washington State University football standout who was diagnosed in 2011 with ALS, is the latest recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal. According to ESPN, he's only the eighth athlete to ever get such recognition.

"Today, I learned that Congress has confirmed my nomination for the Congressional Gold Medal. Talk about feeling undeserving! The list of past winners is filled with enlightened and powerful giants of humanity. It's ridiculously overwhelming," Gleason said in a humble statement posted to Twitter.

Gleason, who played special teams for the New Orleans Saints, made history in New Orleans with his blocked punt against the Atlanta on Sept. 25, 2006, the first game played in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. It was one of the most watched football games in NFL history.

Before he joined the NFL, Gleason was a linebacker at Washington State and a four-year starter on the Cougars baseball team.

Now, Gleason is better known for his charitable and advocacy work surrounding ALS, a debilitating and often deadly disease.

"I played eight seasons in the NFL, and I'm in my eighth season with ALS. ALS is a remorseless and humiliating disease," Gleason said. "Eight years later, Michelle and I have two spectacular kids ... I'm productive and purposeful. In many ways, I feel I've conquered ALS. Not only that, our foundations help others to be fellow conquerors - until we find treatments and a cure."

His nonprofit, Team Gleason, helps others suffering from ALS with technology and equipment to make their lives easier. The foundation also helps to fund research for a cure and awareness campaigns. Click here to learn more.