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An Angel Blocked a Punt

On Sundays in the fall, 76,468 fans go to church.

They walk down the aisles in droves, dressed in their finest black and gold, to worship at the altars of Andersen, Roaf, Jackson, and Manning. Hail Marys – they hope – are few and far between, replaced by a raucous choir that knows but one hymn:

"Who dat? Who dat?

Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?"

That’s how it’s supposed to be.

But on August 29th, 2005, church closed, like everything else in the city, as Katrina’s vicious winds and rain drove in. Homes and businesses were destroyed. Lives and loved ones lost. And football took a rightful, and painful, backseat to the rebuilding of the city.

The Superdome became a temporary shelter for those who had nowhere else to go. And so, the Saints spent the 2005 season on the road, playing “home games” in San Antonio, New York, and Baton Rouge.

After 13 months in exile, they returned to the Dome for Monday Night Football against the rival Atlanta Falcons.

That, in itself, was a victory.

Photo: Cheryl Gerber

Seatmates and ticket holders reunited. Joyous belts of “who dat” returned. The city forgot about its troubles for 60 minutes. Church was in session, once more.

Then, came the miracle. Well, a small miracle. But it was ours and we needed it.

The Saints forced a Falcons 4th down on the opening series. On the next play, Steve Gleason, a little-known special teams player, flew up the middle and blocked the punt. Curtis Deloatch recovered it for a touchdown as millions screamed, cried, and danced.

TV commentators sat silently for over a minute and let the deafening sounds of the Dome announce the city’s comeback in prime time. And oh, was it loud. Really, really, really loud. The Saints won the game, and finished the year with their best record to date.

They won Super Bowl XLIV three seasons later.

Photo: Cheryl Gerber

Today, Steve Gleason remains a symbol of the city’s rebirth and resilience. A statue outside the Superdome (open to the public) commemorates his blocked punt. Steve’s ongoing fight with ALS has come to represent New Orleans’ “No White Flags” mentality, and his foundation brings support to those fighting along with him.

Visit New Orleans and start your story with #OneTimeInNOLA.

 

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