Former Saints player Steve Gleason, who’s battling ALS, introduced Pearl Jam and was on stage with them Friday night during their set at the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans. And he made the set list for the show.
Gleason famously blocked the ball off of the foot of Atlanta punter Michael Koenen and into the end zone for a Saints touchdown on Sept. 25, 2006, the night the rebuilt Superdome and the city of New Orleans hosted an NFL game for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.
The statue, entitled ”Rebirth,” depicts Gleason fully outstretched in a dive, his hands smothering the ball as it leaves Koenen’s foot.
In early 2011, Gleason, a former Washington State defensive back who retired from the NFL in 2008, was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The terminal condition causes gradual paralysis. Gleason, once a fearless special teams standout who never shied away from bone-rattling collisions with players much bigger than him, now gets around on a motorized wheel chair.
With the help of family, friends and benefactors, he has maintained an active and busy life, and has started the Team Gleason Foundation, which seeks to improve the quality of life for those living with ALS through means such as technology.
”Steve is a guy who, no matter what the circumstances, he is always thinking about doing for others, and how can I make this world a better place … and everything he has done since being diagnosed with ALS just proves that point even more,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said when the statue was unveiled last year. ”It’s amazing to see a guy who continues to sacrifice for others. It’s inspiring and something that we should certainly all look at and know that our lives are better because of Steve Gleason.”
Pearl Jam, considered one of the most influential rock bands of the ’90s, has sold an estimated 60 million records worldwide and more than 31½ million in the States.
The band also has a connection with and love for sports, even before it was Pearl Jam; the group’s original name was Mookie Blaylock, after the former Atlanta Hawks star.
Growing up in the north Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill., lead singer Eddie Vedder became and still is a diehard Cubs fan. He has thrown out ceremonial first pitches at Wrigley Field and also has been the seventh-inning stretch guest singer several times.
Baseball is definitely in Vedder’s blood. He even wrote a Cubs tribute song titled, "All the way."
During the World Series, the band’s music was featured on the FOX broadcasts, including all 12 tracks from the recently released "Lightning Bolt."