NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Steve Gleason is the 2015 recipient of the George Halas Award.
The Halas Award is given to a NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed.
The former Saints special-teams player was chosen as the 46th Halas Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Gleason's continuing battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease) serves as an inspiration to many. He has helped raise funds to provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries with leading-edge technology, equipment and services via his Gleason Initiative Foundation and Team Gleason organization.
In January 2011, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS. Teaming with his family and friends, he started Team Gleason to help people diagnosed with ALS to live productive lives by providing access to events and assistive technology until a cure is found.
Fueled by his slogans of "No White Flags!" and "Awesome Ain't Easy", Gleason and his foundation got to work almost immediately to raise public awareness about ALS and find ways to end the disease.
As part of his advocacy in getting assistive technology in the hands of those suffering with ALS and related diseases, the U.S. Senate passed the Steve Gleason Act of 2015 in April, which if passed by the House and signed into law, would make speech generating devices, like the one Gleason uses to communicate to the world, available to patients through Medicare and Medicaid.
In April 2014, Gleason's foundation received a $5 million gift from Saints owner Tom Benson for the Team Gleason House for Innovative Living. The facility in New Orleans' St. Margaret's Skilled Nursing Residence allows up to 18 patients with incurable neuromuscular disorders to live as independently as possible in rooms where the environment (lights, doors, elevators, TVs, computers and more) are controlled by the patients' eyes. The Benson gift will be used as an endowment for annual operating expenses for the home. Chase gave a $350,000 grant in January 2014 to help develop technologies that will help patients at the facility.
Gleason is the third member of the Saints franchise to receive the honor from the PFWA, joining kicker Tom Dempsey (1972) and current quarterback Drew Brees (2007).
The award is named for George Halas, a charter member (1963) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who was associated with the Chicago Bears and NFL from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983 as an owner, manager, player and promoter. Halas won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.