New Orleans, La. --- The New Orleans Saints unveiled a spectacular tandem statue at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome today entitled "Rebirth." The statue, commissioned by Saints' Owner/Chairman of the Board Tom Benson, was unveiled in a private ceremony that was attended by Benson, the New Orleans Saints, Steve Gleason, members of Team Gleason, The Honorable Mitch Landrieu and the sculptor of the statute, Brian Hanlon.
The larger-than-life bronze statue features the likeness of former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason stretching out to successfully block a punt by former Atlanta Falcons punter Michael Koenen (currently a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) on September 25, 2006 during a Monday Night Football game. The statue is a tribute to both the reopening of the iconic domed stadium just over one year removed from the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the career and lifetime accomplishments of Gleason.
"This statue is symbolic of the Rebirth of our city, our region, our home, our team," said Benson. "This statue reminds us of a cherished night and one of the most amazing plays in the proud history of this franchise. It will be here for everyone to view coming into, out of or past the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to see and rekindle the feelings we shared that evening. This statue will be an everlasting tribute to the spirit of the 'Rebirth' legacy and what it stands for and of Steve's lasting impact on the lives he has helped touch and inspire."
"It is our belief, as an organization, that a singular moment in time helped to change the fortunes for the Saints for the better," said Saints' Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis. "The blocked punt is a moment that those Saints fans, in attendance that night and watching the game across the world, will never forget. Steve's career achievements encapsulate that moment and he has often spoken about the magical moment and how he was thrilled because it was a shared time with his teammates and with the fans of the Saints. Everyone who passes by this statue can take a moment to remember that night and what it symbolizes. It is ours to share and a tribute to Steve and all the players that have proudly worn a Saints uniform."
The statue was created by nationally-acclaimed sculptor Brian Hanlon of Hanlon Sculpture Studio in Toms River, N.J. (www.hanlonsculpture.com). The bronze statue of Gleason and Koenen weigh 800 pounds each and stand seven-and-a-half feet tall and are mounted on granite stanchions that measure 10 feet long by four feet wide by six feet tall. Altogether, the statue on the base stands 13 feet tall. "Embracing this moment with a sculpture is a reflection of the heart of the New Orleans Saints organization and I am proud to be a part of it," said Hanlon.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a teammate and close friend of Gleason, participated in the unveiling of the statue and stated, "Steve Gleason is a dear and cherished friend. He has a mantra, 'No White Flags.' I am honored to be here today witnessing the commemoration of this statue. It is an incredibly special memory and something that we all shared in. To me, it stands for resilience, it stands for determination in the face of adversity and it stands for what is right and great about New Orleans, Steve Gleason and the New Orleans Saints. I am greatly touched, honored and thankful to have been a part of this ceremony. It gives us added pride to call New Orleans home."
The image was adapted from photos and video displayed before a nationally televised audience at the 13:35 mark of the first quarter. The blocked punt was recovered by former Saints CB Curtis DeLoatch in the Falcons' end zone, giving the Saints a lead that they wouldn't surrender en route to the team's 24-3 victory. Times-Picayune photographer Michael DeMocker took a photo of Gleason's successful diving attempt to block the punt that has appeared with world-wide circulation and is prominently displayed in both the Saints Hall of Fame and in the Saints' Indoor Practice Facility in Metairie, La.
The Saints chose that image because it was a metaphor for everything Gleason has accomplished in his career and his life – eluding defenders, overcoming obstacles and staring challenges in the face. Gleason has waged a public and documented battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig's Disease.
"To have a statue of you up 100 years from now at the Superdome, I think that's amazing," Gleason said. "But I just don't want this to be about me and that play. I want it to be about what the play symbolized, which was a commitment by this community to rebuild. This statue is about coming through adversity. It's about finding your heroes. It's about commitment and a rebirth for all."
Gleason and his wife, Michel, welcomed their first child, Rivers, on October 19, 2011. The Gleason's, through their website (www.teamgleason.org), have chronicled their lives since Steve's life-changing diagnosis in January of 2011. Together and with the help of family and friends, the Gleason's have lived an active lifestyle that has raised both awareness and funds for ALS research and support for those afflicted with the disease. Gleason is an avid outdoorsman and adventurist. He has canvassed the globe in his free time in search of thrills and unique experiences and has been passionate about environmental issues and preservation.