Steve Gleason joins state sports hall of fame’s 2018 induction class as Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award recipient
NATCHITOCHES – Steve Gleason, whose place in New Orleans Saints history is now secondary to the impact he is making on ALS research and in the lives of thousands of victims of the disease, is the 2018 winner of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award presented by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Gleason, whose pro football career ended in 2007, turns 41 on Thursday. The announcement of his honor is timed to coincide with an evening event in New Orleans celebrating his birthday. On June 30 during the Hall of Fame’s 2018 Induction Dinner and Ceremony in Natchitoches, he will become the 18th recipient of the Dixon Award since its inception in 2005.
He earned a permanent place in Saints lore on Sept. 26, 2006, when he blocked a punt early in the first game back in the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina. The play resulted in a Saints touchdown that triggered an emotional victory over their heated rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, on Monday Night Football. The Saints later commissioned a statue of Gleason’s play that stands outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Two years after retiring from the Saints, Gleason, then 34, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Gleason, along with his friends and family, started Team Gleason which is designed to generate public awareness for ALS, raise funds to help those fighting the disease, and ultimately to find a cure. His continuing efforts and his indomitable lifestyle have made national and global impact.
The Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award has been presented annually by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s 35-member Hall of Fame selection committee to an individual who has played a decisive role as a sports leader or administrator benefiting Louisiana and/or bringing credit to Louisiana on the national and international level.
Dixon Award winners are enshrined as Hall of Fame members and are featured in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum in Natchitoches.
Gleason will be among the 2018 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Class to be spotlighted in the annual Induction Dinner and Ceremonies on Saturday evening, June 30, at the Natchitoches Events Center. The Induction Dinner and Ceremonies are the highlight of the 2018 Induction Celebration beginning Thursday afternoon, June 28, with a press conference at the Hall of Fame museum at 800 Front Street in Natchitoches.
Six-time Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne, 18-year Major League Baseball pitcher Russ Springer, NBA champion and two-time Grambling All-American Larry Wright, and 15-year NFL receiver and two-time Super Bowl champion Brandon Stokley are among the eight 2018 competitive ballot inductees chosen for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
The class also includes championship coaches Lewis Cook (high school football, still active at Notre Dame of Crowley) and Jerry Simmons (LSU, UL Lafayette tennis), along with 1975 Bassmasters Classic champion Jack Hains and the late Paul Candies, a member of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Also honored with enshrinement in the Class of 2018 will be Pineville broadcaster Lyn Rollins and Lake Charles sportswriter Scooter Hobbs, the winners of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.
The 2018 Induction Class will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking $23 million, two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and has garnered worldwide architectural acclaim and rave reviews for its contents since its grand opening during the 2013 Hall of Fame induction weekend.
The selection of Gleason was jointly announced by Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland and LSWA president Paul Letlow. Last year’s Dixon Award recipient was NCAA women’s basketball administrator Sue Donohoe, a Pineville native and Louisiana Tech graduate.
Gleason, a Washington state native who now is a longtime New Orleans resident, came to the Saints as a practice squad player in 2000. He played in 83 games on special teams and in the secondary at safety. When the team won Super Bowl XLIV following the 2009 season, even though he was retired, he was awarded a Super Bowl ring by the team, and at the same ceremony, a key to the city of New Orleans by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
The statue “Rebirth” was dedicated in July 2012, when a local news report said the play that inspired it “etched Steve Gleason into Saints lore and became symbolic of New Orleans’ resilience in the face of disaster.” It also was reflective of Gleason’s approach to his life.
In 2013, Team Gleason held the first Team Gleason Summit for a Cure in New Orleans where scientists and people living with ALS, their loved ones, advocates, and other came together to establish a roadmap for new treatments.
A year later, Team Gleason received donations from over 18,000 people and raised more than $1 million during the Ice Bucket Challenge. The foundation has continued to raise money in the years since with the challenge.
Also in 2014, the Team Gleason House for Innovative Living was created. The Gleason House is a residential facility, located at St. Margaret’s Skilled Nursing Residence in New Orleans, that is designed to help people with ALS live more independently. It has seven single occupancy rooms, one double occupancy room, and all rooms are equipped with PEAC technology, and other amenities.
In 2015, Gleason was selected for the George Halas Award from the Pro Football Writers Association, which is given to a player, coach or staffer who overcomes the most adversity to succeed.
Also that year came the release of the critically acclaimed documentary “Gleason” that showcased Gleason’s fight against ALS. The film received top honors from the National Board of Review and selection for the Sundance Film Festival.
In 2016, President Obama signed into law the Steve Gleason Act which allows speech generating devices, like the one Gleason uses, more accessible for patients with ALS and other neurological disorders.
Seventeen people have previously been presented the Dixon Award since its inception in 2005.
The first winner in 2005 was Randy Gregson, a New Orleans native/resident and former president of the United States Tennis Association. In 2006 the winner was Emmanuel “Boozy” Bourgeois, president of Louisiana Special Olympics since 1972.
The 2007 recipients were Don Landry, a longtime collegiate administrator and basketball coach, and Doug Thornton, the executive director of the Superdome.
In 2008, the Dixon Award went to world-renowned orthopedic Dr. James Andrews, a Homer native, LSU graduate and SEC champion pole vaulter.
The 2009 recipients were George Dement, a Bossier City boxing and youth sports activist; and “Mr. Softball” Benny Turcan, a New Orleans native and long-time state ASA softball commissioner.
In 2010 the Dixon Award winner was Gerald Boudreaux, the longtime City of Lafayette recreation director best known as one of the country’s top college basketball referees in the last three decades.
A year later, the committee honored Elmo Adolph, an Olympic and professional boxing official, and Billy Montgomery, who as a highly-regarded state legislator championed sports causes including construction of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame museum.
In 2012, the Dixon Award went to Marksville physician Dr. L.J. Mayeux, the former national president and chairman of the board for Ducks Unlimited renowned for his efforts to restore duck habitat across the nation.
The 2013 recipient was New Orleans businessman and sports benefactor Milt Retif, whose influence has been especially significant for American Legion baseball and Tulane baseball in his hometown.
In 2014 there were two recipients: Tynes Hildebrand, a coach and later athletics director at Northwestern State who served a decade as one of the NCAA’s top basketball officiating administrators, and Wright Waters, the longtime Sun Belt Conference commissioner.
Paul Hoolahan, the executive director and chief executive officer of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic since 1996, was presented the 2015 Dixon Award.
The 2016 winner was world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes, a Natchitoches native and LSU graduate who has become a leading figure in the field of sports-related concussion research and treatment. Donohoe was last year’s recipient.
The 2018 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 28 with the press conference and an evening reception. It includes three receptions, a youth sports clinic, a bowling party and a Sunday, July 1 golf scramble at Oak Wing Golf Course in Alexandria. Tickets for the Induction Dinner and Ceremonies, and golf entries, along with sponsorship packages, are available through the LaSportsHall.com website.
Adding the 334 sports competitors currently enshrined, 17 previous winners of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership award and 60 prior recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, there are 411 members of the Hall of Fame prior to this summer’s ceremonies.
The 2018 Induction Celebration weekend will be hosted by the LSWA and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, the support organization for the Hall of Fame. The LSHOF Foundation was established as a 501 c 3 non-profit entity in 1975 and is governed by a statewide board of directors. For information on participation and sponsorship opportunities, contact Foundation President/CEO Ronnie Rantz at 225-802-6040 or RonnieRantz@LaSportsHall.com. Standard and customized sponsorships are available.
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