New Orleans looks to Saints hero Steve Gleason for inspiration amid COVID-19 outbreak

A city that knows tough times is going through one of its toughest.

New Orleans is among the nation’s cities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with a per capita death rate twice that of New York’s. As of Monday evening, there were 14,687 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Louisiana and 512 dead, accounting for roughly one in 20 of the 10,000-plus confirmed coronavirus deaths in the United States.

New Orleans looks to Steve Gleason

The city that rallied to recover from Hurricane Katrina looked on Monday to one of its biggest inspirations after the devastating 2005 storm — former Saints safety and ALS-awareness advocate Steve Gleason.

In case you’re squinting, that’s an airplane sign that reads “Let’s block this thing Gleason style!” that was seen flying in the skies of New Orleans Monday afternoon. Gleason himself spotted it and tweeted the image to his followers.

What Gleason means to New Orleans

The block refers to Gleason’s block of an Atlanta Falcons punt during their 2006 “Monday Night Football” matchup in the Superdome, an iconic moment in New Orleans sports that helped galvanize the city as it recovered from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

Gleason’s block of Michael Koenen in the first quarter that night was recovered in the end zone by cornerback Curtis Deloatch for a Saints touchdown, their first score en route to a 23-3 win in their first game back in the Superdome after the stadium housed thousands of residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Steve Gleason's punt block against the Falcons was immortalized in a statue titled "Rebirth." (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Steve Gleason's punt block against the Falcons was immortalized in a statue titled "Rebirth." (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

The play serves a symbol for the moment the city emerged from the devastation wreaked by Katrina and was immortalized in a statue erected outside the Superdome in 2012 called “Rebirth.”

A replay of the game just so happened to be on ESPN’s schedule Monday night.

Gleason was diagnosed in 2011 with the debilitating neurodegenerative disease ALS and has gone on to serve as inspiration in the fight against the illness. His advocacy earned Gleason a Congressional Gold Medal in January.

And now, as New Orleans once again copes with tragedy, the city full of hope and fight found a reason to smile alongside one of its heroes.

More from Yahoo Sports: