Whether it's giving his all on the gridiron in Pullman and New Orleans or carrying on the fight against ALS, Steve Gleason has touched numerous lives. Now his friends in Spokane are preparing a big surprise for the man who's done so much for others.
Steve Gleason's legendary punt block in the Saints' first game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina will never be forgotten in New Orleans.
"Steve is an icon in Louisiana. He's an icon in our house," family friend John Ward said.
John Ward's son and Gleason have been like brothers since they were kids. When they found out he was diagnosed with ALS, "my son cried for two weeks and I was sick to my stomach for about a month, because I know what kind of a person Steve is."
Ward found out Gleason had a '65 Ford Mustang in storage that his grandfather had bought brand new. His original plan was to buy it from Gleason and fix it up for his grandson, but "when Steve got sick, my grandson decided, you know, maybe we should give this back to the family and see if we can do something with it to help Steve."
Gleason's father-in-law sent them money for the project, and with the help of Tim Rattay and Steve Maurer from Gus Johnson Ford, they revved things up, working tirelessly for months.
"I helped John put the engine in, under the dash work, windows. The car was completely disassembled, so it was like a jigsaw puzzle," Steve Maurer said.
The Saints' colors were Ward's idea. The fleur-de-lis on the grill was his son and grandson's.
"I let everybody have a part and a piece to it," Ward said.
Special touches for a very special person, and Maurer has a special connection as well.
"My mom suffered from ALS and I lost her about a month ago, so that's why it kind of … it's close to me," he said.
Maurer met Gleason for the first time just three months ago and since then, this project has become like therapy.
"Just to meet him and actually touch him and say, you know, say something to him. Yeah, it meant a lot to me," he said.
Despite a few bugs, like a noisy fan shroud, they're almost ready to ship the Mustang to New Orleans, where Ward hopes to drive it onto the Superdome floor.
"It would be fun. It would be fun. I might get in trouble, because I might .." he laughs. "You know, you never know. It would be fun."
The Team Gleason foundation will likely use the Mustang for fundraising events.
"They think it's going to be something that will really help their cause. I hope it does," Ward said.
There's no doubt that rebuilding the Mustang has already helped Ward and Maurer more than Steve Gleason will ever know.
The guys could use some help transporting the car down to New Orleans. If you can help, donate to Team Gleason and mention the car with your donation.