Chase Bank/Twitter

Documentary film of former WSU and Saints star Steve Gleason's fight with ALS earns rave reviews at Sundance

FORMER WASHINGTON STATE star and New Orleans Saints icon Steve Gleason appears to have taken the Sundance Film Festival by storm this weekend.

Peter King, the sage Sports Illustrated columnist tweeted Saturday:

“PARK CITY, Utah-Just finished watching premiere of GLEASON. One powerful, raw, emotional film. America needs to see it.”

Mike McCready, the Pearl Jam guitarist, also was there and tweeted:

“Just saw the @TeamGleason film #sundance …riveting on EVERY level as a father, friend, husband, teammate …wow.”

Cougar quarterbacking legend and current athletic department staff member Jason Gesser, also took in the film. He tweeted:

“Speechless & amazed. Just finished watching a private showing of the movie 'Gleason a life of a Saint' @TeamGleason". 

And for good measure, Saints quarterback Drew Brees tweeted beforehand how honored he was to be attending the premier.

The documentary chronicles Steve’s life since being diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2011. Steve’s wife, Michel, in an Associated Press interview, characterized the film this way: “a good picture of how brutal the disease is and how difficult it is for the person who has the disease and also the people all around. At the same time, there’s lots of beauty in it and lots of friendship, family, love, laughter, happiness.”

Steve, Michel, family and friends are pictured above in a photo tweeted from Sundance by Chase Bank today.

THE FILM SPARES NOTHING in detailing Steve’s physical decline, which now requires feeding through tubes and “speaking” via eye-tracking technology on a computer that generates audio conversations. He gets around in a motorized wheelchair.

By all accounts,  some of the film’s most touching moments stem from the 1,300 hours of home videos Steve recorded before he lost his ability to speak. Steve made the videos — which include him reading children’s books to his son Rivers — so  Rivers, born not long after Steve’s battle began, would know what his dad was like before being stricken.

Click here to see Sports Illustrated’s exclusive excerpt from the film.

Before going on to fame with the Saints, Steve was a standout linebacker for the Cougars and a mainstay on the 1997 squad that was the first WSU team to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl in 67 years. The Spokane native concluded his WSU career among the 10 most prolific tacklers in school history. 

Since his ALS diagnosis, Steve has been a tireless fundraiser and advocate for both research into the disease and awareness of the challenges it poses to those stricken and their families. To learn more about his non-profit work, click to Team Gleason.

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