NEWORLEANS- For 17 seasons, Steve Landry has been on the sidelines with the New Orleans Saints. The long-time equipment assistant used to travel with the team. Now, he can only be with the team when the Saints play at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
'I'm on the sideline behind the defensive bench,' said Landry.
That's where Landry was Sunday when the Saints hosted the San Francisco 49ers. After a rough few weeks for Saints kicker Garrett Hartley, it was up to him to seal the win. Field goal: good, Saints win. One of the first people Hartley runs up to on the field was Steve Landry, the moment captured by New Orleans Advocate photographer Matthew Hinton.
'And the next thing I know, Garrett comes up behind me and he grabs my hand and he says what a great win and I said you're right man. You did it. Hang in there. We're going to get through this,' Landry said.
It's the latter portion of Landry's statement that relates most to his life - 'We're going to get through this.'
It's what he tells himself and his wife, Rita. For nearly four years, Landry has seen his body progressively succumb to ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. The neurodegenerative disease affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, eventually leading to death. There is no cure.
Landry started noticing changes in his body during the Saints' historic 2009 season.
'I couldn't wiggle my toes and I would stumble and fall some times and people would make fun of me,' Landry said. 'I never thought it would become what it is today.'
Landry is now in a mechanical chair that he controls with his hands. His wife, Rita, is his primary caregiver. She said the past four years have been trying.
Rita Landry recently was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. Through radiation, the cancer is under control for now. She reflects on the vows she made with her husband.
'You really have to mean your vows,' Rita Landry said. 'For better or for worse, in sickness and health. That's where we are.'
And in a way, those vows bleed over to his marriage with the Saints. Landry said he's been with the team, for better and for worse. He's proud of the 2010 photo he was in when the Saints gathered for their Super Bowl snap shot. His prized possession is the championship ring the team gave him, one side engraved with 'Landry.'
'It being the first one, and for me to be part of that, it was special,' Landry said.
He's unsure how much longer he'll be able to work with the team; the strength in his hands is fading.
'I hope it's not my last season, but if it is, I've had some great times,' Landry said.
He draws inspiration from another 'Steve' from the Saints. Former Saints special teams member Steve Gleason's fight with ALS has captured the attention of the city and scores of others around the country. Gleason's mantra of 'No white flags' also is Steve Landry's battle cry.