“No White Flags”: Part 3 of 4

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‘No White Flags’: Team Gleason’s Battle with ALS Part 3

by Brian Belko on 01/31/2013 at 10:00 am
Kevin C.  Cox

NFL linebacker Scott Fujita first met Steve Gleason when he signed a deal to play for the New Orleans Saints. Many of Scott’s friends attempted to convince him not to play for New Orleans because of the upheaval the city was still undergoing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Scott, however, was anxious to be a part of the city’s rebirth and renewal. Upon arriving in New Orleans with his wife, Steve was one of the first people who Scott befriended. Steve was incredibly well-known around the city and offered to guide the couple around as they learned about their new city.

Scott started his NFL career in Kansas City when he was drafted in the 5th round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Chiefs. He played there for three seasons before signing a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys for the 2005 season. After that season in Texas, Scott signed his contract with the Saints. He was named as defensive team captain by his teammates and held that title until the end of the 2008 season.

Scott stayed with the Saints until the 2010 season in which they won the Super Bowl. He was an unrestricted free agent following that season and chose to sign with the Cleveland Browns.

Throughout his NFL career, Scott has always enjoyed giving back to the communities in which he has played. It’s an important part of his career to him. That passion for giving back has also been invaluable for the Team Gleason mission.

“I’ve read a lot of debate over the years about whether professional athletes or celebrities have a responsibility to act as role models or not,” Scott said when interviewed.

“Ideally, children would learn all the valuable lessons they need right at home and at school. But the reality is that in many cases, they’re looking at us, just like I looked up to guys like Michael Jordan and Ronnie Lott and Walter Payton when I was a kid. Because of this, I think it’s important to behave responsibly, because kids are watching.”

Scott’s charity work has included a large number of very worthy causes. The organizations that he has worked with and supports include Catholic Charities for Adoption, the Pat Tillman Foundation, Covenant House New Orleans, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Insitute, Angel’s Place, and The Littlest Heroes. Scott has also worked with several environmental organizations including America’s WETLAND and the Gulf Restoration Network.

“I also think that as a professional athlete, there’s a fairly limited window of time where you can make a far-reaching impact through the celebrity that’s been afforded to you. Our careers are short, and honestly, most people won’t care much about what we say or do within a few years of leaving the game. Because of that, I think it’s important to do good things when you have such a unique platform to make such an impact.”

Kids line

That enjoyment out of giving back is something that Scott and Steve have in common and is one of the many reasons that they are such close friends. Besides that however, Scott knew right when he saw Steve doing yoga instead of lifting weights at the Saints’ training facility that they would get along just fine.

Steve has always been a guy that marches to his own beat and Scott was quite similar. He recalled one memory of Steve from very early in their friendship that really spoke to the type of person he truly was.

“I don’t know if I can pinpoint a favorite memory, but something that certainly speaks to the type of person he is happened at New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2006. I had arrived in New Orleans as a free agent in March that year, and was just getting to know my teammates, Steve included,” Scott remembered.

“He invited me to meet up with his group at Jazz Fest. That was my first time at Jazz Fest, and I really had no idea where to go or what to do. And when we arrived, Steve had been there for hours saving a space for us among a sea of people who gathered to watch Dave Matthews Band perform. Steve barely even knew me at that point, so I thought that was pretty cool. That may sound like a little thing, but it’s just how he rolls. Thoughtful, and unselfish.”

A beautiful, enduring friendship was born out of that initial meeting and the two men have become as close as brothers over the years. That is why the news of Steve’s diagnosis hit Scott particularly hard.

2011 New Orleans Saints Regular Season

Scott was at home in California for the holidays when his cell phone rang one morning. The day was January 6, 2011 and it was Steve on the other end of the line. When Scott heard the terrible news that Steve had to tell him, he wept. As anyone who has experienced the absolute dread of such a diagnosis, whether it is personally or that of a friend or family member, can relate to Scott in that circumstance.

At one point in the tough conversation, Steve told Scott that at one point, Scott may have to keep him running.

“Anything I can do to help keep him running, I am all in,” Scott later said.

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Team Gleason has come to be one of those things that Scott is able to commit himself to in order to help keep Steve running. Not only does it help Steve personally, but it also helps him to keep helping others. Helping others is something that Steve will always want to do and that will always be important to him.

“Right now, there is no cure for ALS. But in the absence of a cure, technology can in some respects restore what ALS takes away. And that’s one of the cornerstones of Team Gleason’s mission,” Scott says.

Check back tomorrow for the final installment of this four-part series and learn more about Team Gleason; their mission, their goals, and the ways in which they continue to enrich the lives of people with ALS.

Full story at: http://www.bonfireimpact.com/2013/01/31/no-white-flags-team-gleasons-battle-with-als-part-3/

Filed in: Press Room • Friday, February 1st, 2013
 

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About

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