Saints Bounties Gleason Football

Former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason raises his hand to the crowd as quarterback Drew Brees and defensive end Will Smith look on before a game Sept. 25, 2011, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

WASHINGTON — Former Saints star and ALS advocate Steve Gleason is set to receive the highest civilian honor awarded by Congress  during a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol.

Gleason, who will be the first NFL player to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease — in 2011. Since then, he's become a leading advocate for people living with the paralyzing neuromuscular disease and has worked toward laws that provide for assistance for ALS patients.


Details: Steve Gleason Congressional Gold Medal ceremony

Time: 3 p.m. (ET) / 2 p.m. (CT)

Location: Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol

Watch online: The event is expected to air on CSPAN.org. It will also be streamed on Sen. Bill Cassidy's YouTube page here


Previous Congressional Gold Medal honorees include Thomas Edison, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson.

"The list of past winners is filled with enlightened and powerful giants of humanity," Gleason wrote in his statement when the honor was announced last year. "It's ridiculously overwhelming."

Gleason said he'll 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."

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy spearheaded efforts to recognize Gleason's ALS advocacy and unveiled sketches last fall of the design that Gleason worked with the Congressional Gold Medal Committee to create for the medal.

One side shows an image of Gleason, fist pumped in the air, No. 37 across his chest. The back features a forest-lined stream with a mountain in the background in honor of Gleason's native state of Washington and the words “Keep Exploring.”

"Steve Gleason has shown tremendous courage and resolve in the face of ALS," Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said Friday. "He has remained positive in the face of extreme adversity, inspiring all who hear his story. Steve deserves this medal, and I look forward to his presentation ceremony.”

U.S. House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, a Jefferson Republican who led the House effort to pass the designation, is also expected to speak at the ceremony.

Email Elizabeth Crisp at ecrisp@theadvocate.com and follow on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.