We say it a lot around here: Steve Gleason is one incredible dude. The all-time Coug and former New Orleans Saint has been living with ALS for the past couple of years, and he never ceases to amaze in both his attitude towards life and what he's still accomplishing with that life.
Another chapter came this morning, when Gleason filled in for NFL writer Peter King by writing his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback feature. If you're wondering how a man with no use of his extremities or own vocal cords composed a 4,500-word column, well, here you go:
I have a tablet PC attached to my power wheelchair. This tablet, my command center, sits about 18 inches from my face. At the base of my tablet, I have a black bar that houses infrared cameras that track my pupils. From there, I have a toolbar on the right side of my tablet screen that has mouse commands: left click, right click, double click, etc. So, I look at my on-screen commands for half a second, and those commands select. Then I look wherever I want to click on screen. For example, if I want to minimize my Spotify application, I look at the "left click" command, then gaze at the app's minimize button. If I want to read today's MMQB column, I select the scroll button from my on-screen commands, then gaze at an area in the column. The technology senses where my eyes are as I read, and automatically scrolls down the page accordingly.
It works the same way with my keyboard. This is how I speak: I type whatever nonsense comes to mind, click "speak," and a synthetic voice that sounds hauntingly like my old voice belts out the nonsense for all to hear.
I can crank out about 20 words per minute. For 4,500 words, that's almost four hours to finish this column.
The first thing I thought was, "Man, four hours is a long time." The second thing, though, was "damn, 20 words a minute is actually pretty fast" when you think about that process. Pretty awesome.
Throughout the rest of the piece, Gleason talks about what ALS is, how he's living (and parenting) with it, how he views football's role in his condition, the work that Team Gleason is doing for patients with ALS, and other random thoughts -- including how he got in tight with Pearl Jam. (Hint: It involves another Coug. Because of course it does.)
Please go read it. It's the best thing you'll read all day -- probably all month -- and it's especially informative if you're not as familiar with Gleason's journey as others of us.
The coolest part for me as I made my way through it was finding myself forgetting the painstaking process Gleason went through to write it, essentially forgetting the man who wrote it has no use of his limbs. I think that's exactly how he'd like it to be.
Gleason is living one pretty awesome life, but as he says, awesome ain't easy. No white flags. Go Cougs!