Ex-Cougars star Steve Gleason, suffering from ALS, gives some inspiring words
Steve Gleason, the Washington State standout linebacker of the late 1990s now afflicted with Lou Gehrig's disease, addressed the WSU football team in the hours before its game here Saturday night with Arizona State, then hoisted the school flag in a pregame ceremony.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PULLMAN — Steve Gleason, the Washington State standout linebacker of the late 1990s now afflicted with Lou Gehrig's disease, addressed the WSU football team in the hours before its game here Saturday night with Arizona State, then hoisted the school flag in a pregame ceremony.
"Briefly, we talked about what I think is important about life," said Gleason, who spoke with media members 90 minutes before kickoff. "We talked about how you treat other people. In the end, winning and losing is important, but more important are the relationships you develop."
Gleason, who played eight seasons for the New Orleans Saints, said he also addressed the concept of tapping one's potential.
"We talked about being disciplined, staying poised, and then we talked about fear, and how I, as an athlete, dealt with those three things."
And the final point: "I said, 'I came up here (from his New Orleans home) because I want to support you guys. I believe in you guys.' "
At the break between the first and second quarters, as the videoboard at Martin Stadium showed highlights of Gleason's playing career, fans held up white poster-board cards with the number "34" — Gleason's WSU number.
Gleason, who attended Gonzaga Prep and played at WSU from 1996-99, was a sophomore on WSU's 1997 Rose Bowl team. He broke up the small media group when he was asked if he could come up with a fond recollection from his days here.
Gleason recalled a moment a few days before the '97 Apple Cup, a game the Cougars needed for their first Rose Bowl appearance in 67 years. Putting it in context, he said he was very "buttoned-up" during football season.
"I was walking up the hill, past the soccer fields, past the Coug (the renowned campus watering hole), feeling very confident — until I saw Chris Jackson in the Coug."
Obviously, Jackson, a standout receiver, was loose that week. On the Sunday before the Apple Cup, just as coach Mike Price was admonishing his players to curb their comments during the week, Jackson told reporters he wanted "to kill" Washington, and he talked of putting up "40 to 50" points on the Huskies.
Jackson then had a monster game and the Cougars won, 41-35.
Asked about his allegiance to WSU, Gleason said, "At (their) essence, Cougs are kind of castaways, misfits, overachievers. Other words that come to mind are hospitable, and proud."
Gleason was diagnosed with the disease early in 2011, and despite it, took a three-month van trip to the West, Canada and Alaska with his wife Michel. In late October, she gave birth to a son, whom Gleason called "perfect."
Gleason has started a foundation — Team Gleason — primarily to raise awareness about the disease, which he termed "astonishingly low."
"I think I've always lived with some purpose and had some intentions," Gleason said. "That's not going to change. The opportunity to inspire other people to live with purpose is a great one."
• Linebacker C.J. Mizell didn't play because of a shoulder problem.
• Running back Logwone Mitz wore No. 6, presumably in support of old friend Cory Mackay, the WSU defensive end paralyzed in a truck accident in 2009. Mitz usually wears No. 34.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
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