Gonzaga Prep Hall of Fame

Tonight I was inducted into Gonzaga Preparatory High School’s hall of fame. I chose not to go because I wanted to stay close to Rivers and Michel. ‘Prep’ has had a huge influence on my life and I tried to capture that with this letter that my father read in my absence:


Thank You all for this honor.  I am sorry AND excited that I cannot be here tonight. I’m sorry because I would love to be here to fellowship  with you all, but I’m excited because, instead, I am with my five-day-old son, Rivers and my wife, Michel.

As I sit here looking at Rivers, I see my own image and this image inspires reflection.  I reflect on all the moments between myself as a newborn and  myself today.  I say to you with no doubt that some of the most glorious of those moments were from my time at gonzaga prep. Furthermore,  the  glorious moments I have had since my time at  Gonzaga Prep have been mostly BECAUSE of my time AT Gonzaga Prep. In so many ways, my time here shaped my boyhood and formed me into a man. And make no mistake, I was mostly formless before gonzaga prep. I recall freshman orientation in the fall of 1990. My dad helped explain how the locker combination worked over and over and over again.  A formless boy beginning to take shape.

What did I learn during my time at Gonzaga Prep? Yes, I learned how to define a quadratic, and I learned how to tackle running backs… But more importantly, I learned what football coaches call the intangibles; the tools that really matter in life. I learned how to  think for myself:  I recall a moment in AP history class with Mr.  Macione where I was passionately debating the pros and cons of capitalism versus communism. A teenager forging his thoughts with the wisdom of his peers.

I learned how to work with others. I learned how to live my life with purpose, as God intended. I learned how to listen.  I learned to be open minded from an example set by Mr Cossette, my English teacher and the schools debate coach…  In a junior English class Mr. Cossette would often gush about his love for baseball.  After several these anecdotes, I asked him if he attended prep baseball games.  He replied that prep baseball players don’t attend his debate matches so he didn’t attend prep baseball games.  The next week Tony Hazel, a classmate of mine who is in attendance tonight, and I  attended our first debate match!  After that, I often saw Mr. Cossette in the crowd during my baseball games.  To have an authority figure actually be open minded enough to HEAR ME helped form me into the man I am today.

At Prep, I learned what Jesus meant when he said, “You will love your neighbor as yourself.”  When I was assigned to the Venessa Beahan crisis nursery for (Junior Class) community service, what I expected to be my burden turned out to be my joy. After a semester playing with  these kids who, despite their family circumstances, are able to play and dream and imagine a jungle gym right into a pirate ship and a plastic bucket of pebbles into a treasure chest, I was able to experience Jesus’ words first hand.

The friendships I found and created at Gonzaga Prep also shaped the mold for the rest of my life. More importantly,  I am blessed by how these relationships have  grown and blossomed. I already mentioned one of my best friends, Tony.  We continue to dream and debate and discuss the same way we did as goofy, inquisitive freshmen.

This weekend, two alumni, Matt Shaw and JD Ward, will be visiting my family in New Orleans. When I was married in 2008 there were five prep alumni in my wedding. 13 years after graduation, my groomsmen were men formed and fashioned here at this school.

I certainly did not  emerge  from Gonzaga Prep spotless. I was caught cheating in Dzwinel’s Biology class.  Once, as our basketball team’s mascot, I got ejected  and  watched the second half of our district finals from the top row of the Spokane Coliseum.  Who knew you could be ejected for stealing the other mascot’s head and tossing it to your student body!! I also may have tried to stuff a freshman or two into a garbage can.

I mention these ‘spots’ because there may be a future Hall of Famer listening now, and I want them to understand that despite their shortcomings they can accomplish anything. No I am not spotless…  And it was here at Gonzaga Prep, that I learned God loved us WITH our spots.

I recently made a statement that there is no thing that can defeat the love of a strong family. Well, for me, I first learned that concept here. Gonzaga Prep. I hope I have been able to express how influential Prep has been in my life. Determining which stories and memories to include was quite a challenge.

Speaking of challenge, most would say I am facing a doozey right now. As most of you know, earlier this year I was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  It’s a terrible disease that destroys motor neurons which, in turn, destroy muscle.  Eventually, ALS patients are effectively paralyzed needing a ventilator to breathe. 5 years ago I was  playing football against ‘super human’ humans. Exactly one year ago I was crushing ‘normal human’ humans in a 35 mile  bicycle race in Alabama.  Last night, I struggled to put fork to mouth during dinner and Michel buttoned my pants for me this morning.

As I write this, my son, Rivers is fast asleep.  A reflection of him, I sit here with a quiet peace in my heart knowing that my life has, and will, continue to unfold as God plans.  I found this quiet peace during my time at Gonzaga Prep as I learned to live with purpose, listen to others, and  love others as I love myself. Thank you to my classmates and teachers, and the staff and clergy at Gonzaga Prep for teaching me these things.

I love you and I am so grateful for your love.

I type using Dragon Dictation. Please excuse any typos.


11 Responses to “Gonzaga Prep Hall of Fame”

  1. Kathleen
    October 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    Very well said. My prayers will continue to go out to you & your family. I never had the pleasure of meeting you when you played for the New Orleans Saints, but I can honestly say you were one of my favorite players!! God Bless you & yours.

  2. Cathy Crawley
    October 26, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Steve –
    I am literally crying right now. This is so incredibly beautiful. Your journey has particular significance for me, as I am working on my doctorate of Occupational Therapy. Your positive attitude and humor are inspiration for me and I believe will benefit my future patients.

    Thank you for having such a strong heart and allowing us to join in celebrating you… spots and all.


  3. Michele O.
    October 26, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    WOW…what a great story! My two children just started at St. Al’s this year (K and Preschool). I too came from a Catholic upbringing and as I read this letter, I vision my upbringing and my vision for my children and hope that someday, they will look back and feel that sense of closeness and family. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story and for touching the lives of so many! It is times in our lives that make no sense or we do not appreciate until we look back and realize the impact many have made! Stay strong and positive and God will protect! Congrats on the little blessing for they make each day worth living!

  4. October 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    This young Spokane native was born just weeks before my own firstborn. As a result his mother and I sometimes traded babysitting (which, as hardcore breastfeeding moms, occasionally included pacifying each other’s baby with, well, you get my drift). As a result I STILL have a very soft place in my heart for this incredible former NFL player who is now stricken with ALS. Please join me in prayer for Steve Gleason who, at like 5’10” (or perhaps shorter) defied the odds making it from WSU to the NFL bigtime with the New Orleans Saints. Stephen, you’ve always been an odds-breaker. May you continue to be so now as you trust in God to be your offense and your defense! I am praying for you and your dear family! And thank you for writing your insights about life and purpose in your Hall of Fame acceptance speech. YOU have inspired ME today!

  5. October 26, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    Steve, continue to be so proud of you. You are inspiring me daily, weekly, monthly.

  6. October 27, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    What an amazing testimony! Your life has touched mine even though we’ve never met. What an inspiration to keep the faith when life is hard. God bless you and your family and congratulations on the birth of Rivers.

  7. Rex Mangiaracina
    October 27, 2011 at 2:30 am #

    I met Steve Gleason when I was in 7th grade. We came from nearby Catholic schools to play on a junior high football team together. It was the first time either of us had ever played organized football. Each of us were above the junior high weight limit so they put us on opposite ends of the defensive line. From the moment I saw him race down the field on an opening kickoff, I knew I was in the presence of someone (and something)special. A year younger and forever a step (or few steps) slower, I spent the next 3 years effectively playing behind Steve. I can recall he hit me so hard once it turned my helmet entirely around my head! Despite his obvious talent, Steve was always so inclusive, supportive and the epitome of what a teammate should be.

    Throughout college and over the course of the last decade, I followed the progression of Steve’s football career. Attending school in western Washington, I was the lone individual cheering on Apple Cup victories and Cougar trips to the Rose Bowl…because of Steve. I ‘taped’ and watched an Indianapolis Colts preseason game played abroad I believe…because of Steve. I literally jumped and nearly broke a lamp in the living room when he blocked that punt on MNF…because of Steve. I fought back tears when I learned of this his newest challenge…because of Steve.

    Steve and I were never close friends…high school football teammates is an accurate description of our relationship. I write tonight however to demonstrate the lasting and meaningful impact he had on so many that he may or may not even be aware of. I find it fitting that the Saints gave him a Super Bowl ring. A champion like Steve deserves nothing less. He was and remains to this day emblamatic of what Gonzaga Prep really stands for…becoming a person for others.

    Steve, my wife and I wish you and your beautiful family all the best. You are in our thoughts and prayers always.

  8. Erin (Higgins) Joyce
    October 27, 2011 at 3:01 am #

    I was lucky enough to be in attendance at the Hall of Fame dinner. Standing ovation and not a dry eye in the place after your dad finished reading your speech! You make me proud to be a Bullpup! Thanks Steve!

  9. Bruce
    October 27, 2011 at 4:40 am #

    Thank you for sharing, Steve. I have a 2011 GPrep grad and a freshman there now and I will have them read this. Your journey has always been an inspiration and continues to be so despite your challenges. Our prayers and thoughts are with you, your family and Team Gleason.

  10. Todd Coenen
    October 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    Steve – Big congrats on the honor you received from Gonzaga Prep, and an even bigger congrats to you and your entire family on the birth of your little boy. You are an inspiration to all, and I wish you the best.

  11. Mike Schock
    October 28, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    Mike Schock checking in here.

    Just wanted to say Congrats on your recent Gonzaga Prep Hall of Fame status. I appreciate the passion you have for being a former Bullpup and how that formed you as a person and competitor.

    I have great memories of going against you on the athletic field from our St. Pat’s vs. Assumption days then onto our battles of G-Prep vs. Rogers.

    I believe I can speak for my fellow Pirate classmates and say we are thinking of you and have you in our prayers.

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