The New Orleans and Tennessee Titans will honor two of their most respected legends and bring further awareness to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), when former Saints safety Steve Gleason and former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw serve as honorary team captains prior to the start of the season opener on Sunday.
Once the NFL schedule was finalized with the Saints and Titans opening their season at the Caesars Superdome on September 10, head coaches Dennis Allen and Mike Vrabel agreed on the importance of honoring these two legends for their respective clubs, who both excelled on special teams and were universally lauded as teammates. With both Gleason and Shaw continuing to live with ALS, bringing inspiration to others as well as awareness to the disease with no cure, the hope is for Sunday's display of unity to bring support for those living with this disease and to encourage the continuing research needed in pursuit of a cure.
Gleason will represent the Saints at the coin toss alongside 2023 team captains, quarterback Derek Carr, linebacker Demario Davis, defensive end Cameron Jordan, defensive back J.T. Gray, safety Tyrann Mathieu, center Erik McCoy and longsnapper Zach Wood. Shaw will represent the Titans at the coin toss alongside 2023 team captains quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Derrick Henry, center Aaron Brewer, defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons, safety Kevin Byard, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and long snapper Morgan Cox.
In honor of his birthday, we celebrate with a look at legend Steven Gleason and his years on and off the field with the New Orleans Saints.
Gleason originally joined the Saints the middle of the 2000 season following a standout college career at Washington State and during his eight-season tenure was recognized as one of the NFL's elite special teams players. He appeared in 83 career games and notched 98 special teams tackles, four blocked punts and two fumble recoveries. Gleason's most famous of the four blocks occurred on the September 25, 2006 re-opening of the Superdome on Monday Night Football to spur a 23-3 win over the Atlanta Falcons, one of the most electrifying plays in the history of the franchise.
Despite Gleason's on-field contributions, he is lauded for what he has accomplished away from it. Since being diagnosed in 2011 with ALS, it has been the mission of Gleason and his Team Gleason organization to inspire those with the terminal disease to not only live, but to thrive. Besides supporting efforts to find a cure, a key point of emphasis for Gleason has been helping promote access to assistive technology. In 2020, Gleason was granted the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal for his advocacy and extensive charitable work.
Following a successful college career at Penn State, Shaw was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft and played for the Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears and Titans. It was during his tenure in Nashville that Shaw distinguished himself on and off the field to the Titans organization and community. In three seasons with Tennessee, he played all 48 games as a two-time team captain and twice led the team in coverage stops (2010 and 2012) and tied for the team lead in 2011. He also recorded two blocked punts, both against the team's longtime rival Pittsburgh and contributed 51 defensive tackles.
Shortly after his playing career concluded, Shaw was diagnosed in 2014. He continues to live life to the fullest while inspiring others to keep fighting. He remains involved with the Titans as a special teams consultant and inspirational leader, while also having a stall in the locker room of the team's practice facility. Since his diagnosis, Shaw has helped raise money while bringing awareness to people who wake up every day battling ALS, has written two books and in 2022, received the Muscular Dystrophy Association's inaugural Tribute Award for his support of those affected by neuromuscular diseases.