Steve Gleason played football and baseball at Washington State, lettering all four years in each sport before going on to a seven-year NFL career with the New Orleans Saints.
In 2011, he announced that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and has spent the years since raising awareness about the disease through his foundation, Team Gleason, as well as raising funds to help find a cure and forge the way for better treatment options.
In between the first and second quarters of Saturday’s Apple Cup game, Gleason, who was born and raised in Spokane, was inducted into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame as the sole member of the 2014 class — an unprecedented decision.
“It is a tremendous honor to be here tonight,” Gleason said in a message played on the Martin Stadium video board. “I’m here to thank the entire state, both Cougars and Huskies, for the love we have received.”
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Gleason is confined to a wheelchair, and while he can’t speak, he is able to communicate via a computer program that tracks his eye movement and types for him. His sharp sense of humor and unrelenting positive spirit are evident in each of his tweets — he’s fairly active on Twitter — and in interviews.
He received a standing ovation from the Martin Stadium crowd. Gleason also gave a pregame speech in WSU’s locker room before the game.
As a WSU football player from 1995-98, Gleason, a safety, totaled 282 tackles and was named all-Pac-10 three times. His most memorable contribution as an NFL player was the punt he blocked that led to a touchdown in New Orleans’ first game back in the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina.
Gleason becomes the 178th member of WSU’s hall of fame.
Apple Cup’s cold, late kickoff
Saturday’s 7:35 p.m. kickoff was the latest in Apple Cup history, and it was the coldest, too.
The temperature was announced at 19 degrees at kickoff, which is the lowest Apple Cup temperature on record. The previous low was 20 degrees.
A light snow blanketed the city early Saturday morning, and crews spent the day pushing the thin layer of snow and ice off the Martin Stadium turf. Piles of snow sat behind the east end zone at kickoff, while spots of icy dust remained on the playing surface.