NY Times: In Starkest Terms, Players Share Message About A.L.S.


In Starkest Terms, Players Share Message About A.L.S.

NEW ORLEANS — Outside the Superdome is a statue depicting one of the seminal moments in the history of the Saints and this revived city. Named “Rebirth,” the statue shows the moment the former Saints player Steve Gleason blocked a punt in the Saints’ first game back in the Superdome in 2006, the first game they played in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. That blocked punt led to the first score in the Saints’ victory over the Atlanta Falcons that night.Five years later, Gleason became the symbol for something else entirely. He announced that he had been found to have Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Since then, he and several of his N.F.L.-player friends have become vocal spokesmen for those with the disease.On Monday, they will unveil their latest and most potent effort: a stark public service announcement, pulled together in about three weeks, in which N.F.L. players and coaches — Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and quarterback Joe Flacco; Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Coach Mike McCarthy; the Saints’ Drew Brees and Jonathan Vilma, among them — explain in excruciating detail the gradual physical failure that results from A.L.S. The spot concludes with a wheelchair-bound Gleason: “Let’s put our heads together and find a cure for A.L.S.”The P.S.A. was the idea of Gleason and a few others, and it began about two months ago. The point of the message: “A.L.S. patients will no longer simply fade away,” said Scott Fujita, the Cleveland Browns linebacker who has been Gleason’s most prominent advocate. Just before Christmas, Fujita e-mailed a letter Gleason composed to players around the league, asking them to participate. The response was so overwhelming that, because of logistics, not all of the players could be filmed; the Giants and Broncos wanted to help, but film crews couldn’t get to them in time.

“I didn’t think we would have an actual surplus of players,” Fujita said. “So we had to scramble — how can we get film crews to get to places like Baltimore and Cleveland and Green Bay? We did it. People are kind of drawn to Steve’s story.”

The script, which speaks of the inability to hold a pencil and give a hug, to tie shoes, and then to walk, was composed by Gleason and an advertising group.

“A couple of guys got emotional during the read,” Fujita said. “That’s when it hit them, this disease is brutal.”

It is a coincidence that also in town this week will be O.J. Brigance, the former player who, like Gleason, has A.L.S. and who has become a source of inspiration for the Baltimore Ravens, for whom he is the director of player development. Fujita expects that Gleason’s presence at the Super Bowl, too, will raise awareness. And there will be more spots, Fujita said, with the hope that people will contribute to finding a cure.

Full story at: http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/in-starkest-terms-players-share-message-about-a-l-s/

Filed in: Press Room • Monday, January 28th, 2013

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Scott Fujita

Scott Fujita was born in Ventura, California on April 28, 1979. He was a three-sport standout at Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, CA before heading to the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with Honors in Political Science and earned a Masters degree in Education.

Fujita has played in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. Read more