What went into deciding to be a donor?
Deciding to first be on the registry is easy because it's a swab in your cheek to get some of your saliva, that was the easy part. I found out I was a match at the end of my redshirt junior year at Northwestern. (Being a match) meant I would have to sit out of a couple weeks of spring ball and a couple weeks of workouts. I had to speak with my coach and with my family and count the cost of missing that because who knows what can happen with the depth chart in that time. After some thought I knew it was the right thing to do.
That's a big sacrifice to put your career on the line like that. How important was it to you to go through with the donation?
For me it was important. I'm a Christian and Jesus says to "Love your neighbor as yourself," so I really take that seriously. No one is perfect at it but I felt like this was the perfect opportunity to do that.
Can you tell us about the pain and the process?
Basically the drug they give beforehand to prep your body to ramp up the cell production was pretty powerful and after a couple days my bones were aching because they were working so hard to make new cells. Three or four days into taking those drugs I felt real pain in my hips, my arms, and my thighs, where you have your thicker bones. But it was a low price to pay because I knew at the time it was for the patient to have a chance at life. It was really worth it.
There's a policy where you have to wait a year until you meet the person you donated to, but you had to wait two years. How was the feeling of knowing you were going to meet him?
Just really exciting! You get emotional especially right before hand, I was just excited to finally put a face and a name to somebody I knew had been so affected by me. Not even who I am but just what I was able to do for him by giving him more time on this earth. Obviously, during the meeting was amazing as well.
What was the best part of the meet up?
Probably the best part was my wife and his girlfriend talking, crying and hugging it out. I don't think he or I cried or got too emotional, it was kind of joyfulness for us. But seeing our ladies connect and thank each other and talk was amazing.
Is this something you would encourage people to do?
Absolutely. I think this could be something that becomes a partnership with the NFL at large just because there's about one million people in the registry but that means two hundred million who are old enough are still not registered. The sad thing is that there are far more Caucasian or white decent people who are registered which increases the chances for people who are white to be cured; which is something Be The Match is trying to fix because a white child has about a 99% chance of having a match but a black child has maybe a 20%. That's something I want to raise awareness for and Be The Match is striving to fix. In the ethnically diverse NFL I think it's something we can work to fix, who knows who could be next? It could be our wives, daughters, dads, or moms it's just important to help these good people find a match.
Is there a place people can do to get involved or donate?
If anyone wants to get involved, it's as simple as going online to Be The Match and expressing your desire to be on the registry. All you have to do is swab your cheek and send it back in. Hopefully, we can extent that partnership so that Be The Match is sending teams down to NFL facilities and different events to take swabs and get more people on the registry.