Former Coug Gleason in battle for life

Is Steve Gleason your favorite Washington State player of all time?

But of course he is.

The scrappy linebacker scrapped all the way to an eight-year NFL career, becoming a New Orleans folk hero in the process.

Who is he? Here's how a story on him in the New Orleans Times-Picayune described him:

His fearless play and free-spirited personality captured the fancy of the team's eclectic and loyal fans. He became the ultimate counterculture hero in a counterculture town.

He grew his hair long to support the Locks of Love charity.

He bought a diesel pickup truck and launched a recycling program at the Saints' practice facility.

His fashion sense tended toward T-shirts and flip-flops, except on chartered team flights when he leaned toward bow ties and seersucker.

He wrote poetry, played the guitar and studied Eastern philosophy.

While his teammates lived in suburban enclaves, he rented a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Uptown.

While they lifted weights in the offseason conditioning program, he would retreat to the indoor practice facility for a solo yoga routine.

So, now that we all agree that Steve Gleason is our favorite Coug, I'm about to break your heart. He has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, best known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It's a terminal disease that has taken a toll already on Gleason.

From the Times-Picayune:

Although he disclosed his condition to friends and family after his diagnosis in January, he decided for personal reasons not to go public until now. He believes that through his newly formed Team Gleason organization he'll be able to inspire just as many, if not more, people than he did on the football field. He sees his condition not as a death sentence but as yet another adventure in life.

"It's easy to start questioning whether God has this plan and why the plan would include me getting diagnosed with this disease," Gleason said. "And that's when you can start why-ing yourself to death. More than that, I've thought, what does this mean, how does this help me fulfill my purpose in life? If we have a purpose in life beyond being a cog in the human machine, mine is to help inspire people and that's pretty cool. I would like to motivate the world."

I found Gleason's attitude when he revealed his condition to his close inner-circle particularly moving.

In an email to his inner circle a day later, he admitted his emotions were running the gamut from depression and fear to anger and frustration. Yet, he promised "to fight and believe and expect the extraordinary and smile and laugh and cry and love our lives for every breath that remains in my body."

It's a well-done story by Jeff Duncan. Sad and inspiring.

Go read it.