Tracheotomy to aid Steve Gleason’s breathing _lowres

Advocate file photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Steve Gleason greets New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu during the Saints-Falcons game last season.

Beloved former Saints safety Steve Gleason is being inducted into his alma mater’s athletic Hall of Fame.

Washington State University on Thursday night announced Gleason will be the lone member of the hall’s class of 2014 and will be honored in an in-game ceremony during a home football game in the fall. He will be the first solo inductee in the history of the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

Gleason went to Washington State from 1995 to 1999 and was a two-time captain for the football team, where he won All Pac-10 honors three times and amassed the ninth-most tackles in school history (282). He also played baseball, hitting what was tied for the third-most career triples at Washington State when he left (12), according to the school.

After leaving the university, Gleason played for the Saints from 2000 to 2008, mostly on special teams but also as a backup safety. During and after his career, he inspired innumerable people in a way few — if any — Saints players have.

Gleason blocked a punt on the night the Superdome re-opened for the first time after Hurricane Katrina. The play, which resulted in a touchdown en route to a Saints victory, came to symbolize New Orleans’ will to rebound from the devastating storm.

He was diagnosed in 2010 with the degenerative neuromuscular disease commonly referred to as ALS. He responded by working with his wife, Michel, to launch Team Gleason, which is dedicated to providing technology, equipment and services to people battling neuromuscular diseases or injuries.

One of the group’s best-known philanthropic projects was to build the House for Innovative Living at New Orleans’ St. Margaret Hospital. The house is outfitted with computer-operated technology designed to give up to 18 people fighting ALS as much independence as possible, and it is said to be only the second building of its kind in the world.

“Steve exemplifies all we stand for at Washington State University and will be our exclusive honoree for the 2014 class,” said the school’s athletic director, Bill Moos, in a statement. “It’s an opportunity to focus on everything he has accomplished, as a student-athlete, as a professional athlete and as a role model and hero for so many.”

The Saints congratulated Gleason on his honor late Thursday.