Steve Gleason was born in Spokane, Washington to Mike and Gail Gleason. Steve, though not known for being a phenomenal athlete in the pros, was one of the better high school athletes in his youth. He reached the height of 5-foot-11 in eighth grade. By his freshman year of high school, he was the biggest guy on the team. By his senior year, many kids on the team had passed him in terms of height. He won back-to-back defensive MVP’s at linebacker and as a senior outfielder for the Gonzaga-prep baseball team, while breaking the school’s home run record.
Despite his superb quickness, he was not heavily recruited because of his size, and ended up going to Washington State University. In college, he led the Cougars to the Rose Bowl in 1998, where they eventually fell to the Michigan State Wolverines. He remained a two-sport athlete as a four-year starting outfielder for the WSU baseball team. To this day, he still owns the school record for triples.
Once again, Gleason’s size caused scouts to look over him, both figuratively and literally. He declared for the 2000 NFL draft, and all 32 teams passed on him each round until the selections had concluded. Originally, Gleason signed a deal with the Indianapolis Colts. He was released in the preseason, where his fate would be forever woven into the history of the New Orleans Saints when he landed on their practice squad.
Thousands of fans gathered into the Superdome. For many, this was their temporary home, sleeping on the 50-yard line in sleeping bags while they prayed that the leaky roof would hold just a while longer. To see this place as a place where a prime-time NFL game would be played was still a culture shock for some.
With the team hoping to drum up business, the price of season tickets was lowered considerably. Fans had already suffered through years of mediocrity, driving the prices down. When fans reclaimed the Superdome for the first time, many found themselves displaced, surrounded by strangers. It was a sullen reminder that not everyone had recovered from the storm. Many were still displaced to other cities and states even a year later, while others were obviously lost in the storm.
But there were far more happy moments to be had. As people made their way to their seats, fans reunited with fellow section-mates. Tearful embraces were shared as they could finally rest easy knowing others they hadn’t seen for a full year were okay. These are people you only see eight times a year, but they still felt like family. People sat in their section catching up, sharing war stories of how they survived Hurricane Katrina.
Not everything was back to normal, but the people of New Orleans had been awarded their status quo.
Next: The Game