Of course Steve Gleason was in the Superdome on Thursday. Of course it was the Atlanta Falcons on the other sideline. And of course it was primetime for a New Orleans Saints team needing a lift.
With an ALS-crippled Gleason watching, the Saints pulled off an almost identical homage to the most famous play in Saints history. Just more than nine years ago, Gleason came free on a stunt to block a punt that was returned for a touchdown by Curtis Deloatch against the Falcons in a play that has come to symbolize the Saints’ return to the Dome following Hurricane Katrina and later, sadly, Gleason’s battle with a debilitating diseason.
On Thursday, again against the Falcons, the Saints’ Michael Mauti — a player whose comeback from three torn ACLs embodies Gleason’s spirit — blocked punter Matt Bosher’s kick and ran it back himself for a score that had everyone watching the game thinking of Gleason. It was a simple stunt, just like the one that sprung Gleason, that allowed Mauti to break free and get his hands on the ball.
Gleason attends many Saints game and was honored Thursday for receiving this year’s George Halas Award from the Professional Football Writers of America, given for overcoming adversity. And though he has limited movement in his arms, Gleason hasn’t lost his spirit or his humor. Check out his tweet shortly after Mauti’s block, scoop and score.
The 1-4 Saints have been off to a miserable start. The Superdome once was known as the toughest place for an opponent to play, but the Saints have only won four of their past nine games there. So what better to get the place rocking, with Gleason looking on, then for an overachiever to block a punt for a score?
And perfect that it came from Mauti, a special-teams ace who has had to outwork everyone along the way just to get a shot in the NFL after a slew of injuries dating back to his days at Penn State.
What a way to honor Gleason and help revive the Saints.
– – – – – – –