“To Me, It Was a ‘No Brainer’,” College Football Player Stays True to His Commitment to Be The Match

Posted January 2nd, 2013 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories
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Matt is an extraordinary 22-year-old man. He went from starting offensive lineman on his college’s football team to life-saving marrow donor. It all started as a request from Coach Joe – volunteer at a drive hosted by his football team, and join the Be The Match Registry® to help save lives. Matt decided he could make the commitment and he joined the registry in the spring of 2009, the end of his freshman year of college.

Ready to Donate from the Start

From the beginning, Matt was passionate about the cause. “Watching the videos about Be The Match® really opened my eyes. After joining the registry I began to give blood on a regular basis,” said Matt. Two years later, in the spring of 2011, Matt received the call he never thought would come. “I was told that I was a potential match along with three other people for someone in need of a transplant.” Matt went on to complete further testing to see if he was the best match for that patient. When Matt was told that he was the best match for a 42-year-old man with a form of lymphoma, he was shocked but excited to move forward with donation. “I was so excited; I wanted to donate right away. I said ‘let’s go’ but I was told it would take some time,” said Matt.

The Competitive Spirit between Brothers

Matt was told that the donation method requested by the patient’s doctor was a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation. He was prepared for the possible side effects, but did not experience any reactions until halfway through the third day. “I had a massive headache and felt achy,” said Matt. “I told my coach and ended up sitting out of two football practices.” Even with the headache, Matt described the days leading up to donation as “not too bad.” As for the donation? Matt took his competitive spirit with him for the collection. “Within four hours, the apheresis center had extracted enough for two donations because my count was so high,” said Matt. “It was the highest count they had ever seen, until my brother.” This past fall, Matt’s younger brother John also donated PBSC to a patient in need. Nineteen-year-old John, who is also an offensive lineman on the University of Rhode Island football team, registered in the spring of 2012. “My parents thought John always wanted to follow in my footsteps,” said Matt. “Now he really is!”

Matt and John both received an outpouring of support from their friends, family and teammates, especially from people touched by cancer. “They thanked me for what I did. It was a reaction I wasn’t prepared for,” said Matt. “They were all so proud, but to me it was a no brainer.”

Meeting Matt’s Recipient and Their Football Connection

A year after Matt donated PBSC, the Orlando Cancer Treatment Center flew him down to Florida to meet Ken, his recipient. Ken, coincidentally a huge college football fan himself, is in full remission. After his graduation this past December, Matt traveled to Florida a second time to attend a college bowl game with Ken.

Matt plans to continue his education with a master’s degree in exercise science or strength and conditioning—while staying involved with Be The Match putting on registration drives. In the past three years of the football team’s annual drive program, the school has produced four donors—Matt, his brother John, his assistant coach and another college athlete.

14 Responses to ““To Me, It Was a ‘No Brainer’,” College Football Player Stays True to His Commitment to Be The Match”

  1. Eric says:

    Beautiful story, Matt — THANK YOU, for what you and your brother did! What can I say, to a story like this? Words aren’t enough. (And yes…I’m registered with Be The Match, too…I was motivated to try to help a young boy who needed a match — which thankfully he found, anyway)!

  2. Avon says:

    What a coincidence that so many people so closely linked to one another all donated. I joined the Registry in the mid-1980s, yet have never been called upon … but I know that just by enrolling I’ve upped the odds of a match for every patient in need. Meanwhile, I’ve encouraged many people to register, which certainly helps the odds too.

    In a routine e-mail from the Registry today, I learned that I have until I turn 61 (not 60, as I’d thought) I remain eligible to donate. I was about to say goodbye to the possibility of being called on, which I know is already more remote with age. But now, I can still dream!

    It’s not just John who wants to follow in Matt’s footsteps.

  3. Eileen McWilliams says:

    Thank you to all who register on Be The Match. Our 22 year old son Liam who had Acute Mylegenous Leukemia received a Bone Marrow transplant in 2010. He was one of the unfortunate who did not survive this awful disease. Many donors were added to the donor registery with a drive sponsored in Liam’s name when he was diagnosed. He was given almost 12 additional months by receiving cells from his unknown donor. We are forever grateful to her and to everyone who are on the registry.

  4. Carol says:

    Awesome story! 10 years ago a good friends niece was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of leukemia for a child. I sponsored a blood/marrow registration drive in our city with the City of Hope, huge success! I was finally called 1 1/2 weeks ago and told that I am a possible match for a 32 yr old male! Still in a happy state of shock. Have done my blood work for tissue matching, thank goodness 10 years of platelet donations supplied additional information and has moved me closer to him. I pray I get all the way!

  5. Lisa Beck says:

    Matt, I was a donor in March of 2001 and it is the best feeling to save a life. My patient still survives after 21 years. At 20 years she had a big re Birthday party. God Bless you and good luck in all you do with your life. 🙂

  6. Gary K. Brown says:

    Reading these stories never fails to bring a lump in my throat. God bless Matt and John.

  7. Fogle says:

    My wife received a BMT in Dec. 09, the donor was a 21yr old male. We would love to meet him and personally thank him for the gift of life. Maybe one day we will.

  8. Mujtaba Mohammed says:

    Awesome…gr8 job bro…God Bless You & really looking forward to be a match for someone. best wishes for your good health.

  9. Ann G. says:

    Your story just brings tears to my eyes, how wonderful!
    I’m not only registered but my daughter was blessed to receive a BMT from her sister when she was 5 weeks old and my other daughter was 5 Years old. Beleive me we knew how rare that was. Even tho my daughter has passed away now it wasnt from her BMT. That had been very sucessful, she never needed another one. And she was over 21 whwen she passed. She was born with SCIDS ( the bubble boy ) Omen Syndrome. So see you can help more then just Cancer patients, Your bone marrow is a miracle for more things then you know.

  10. Jacki Lansdowner says:

    Very interesting post about a worthy subject.

    Making an interesting and informative blog takes a huge amount of effort I know. And it takes a lot of consideration.

    You have to think of your prospect readers – it’s either they would find your blog attractive and entertaining and make them stay or boring that would just make them pass by.

    And I want you to know that you succeed. You have entertained a lot of your readers and it can be seen in the comment threads. Keep up the good work.

  11. Claire says:

    Matt, I want you to know after reading your story I joined the registry and started advocating for others to do so also. Thank you for making me aware of this cause!

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