May 6, 2010
VILLANOVA, Pa. - As a freshman at Villanova three years ago, baseball and football player Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) joined the registry of the Be The Match foundation during a drive hosted on campus. Szczur was identified as a match for a leukemia patient several months ago and recently underwent a procedure to donate peripheral blood cells to a 19-month old patient he has never met.
"I was extremely excited when I found out that I was a match for a patient," Szczur said. "When I joined the donor registry I never in a million years thought that I would one day be a match. It is a terrific feeling to have successfully completed the procedure. I was just happy to have this opportunity and I know that anyone else would do the same thing I did if they were given the chance to save someone's life."
Thousands of patients with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases need bone marrow transplants and depend on the Be The Match Registry to find a donor. For a successful transplant, a patient needs a matching donor. Although there are more than 20 million registered donors, there are still only a few hundred matches found each year.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the procedure is going to be successful for the patient," Szczur said. "I whole-heartedly believe that she is going to be okay and hopefully one day I will be able to meet her and her family. In my heart, I just know that there is a great family out there and it was an honor to have the chance to help a little girl. I can't wait for the day when she is well enough to come to one of my games and see me play."
In preparation for making his donation, Szczur took medication which caused him to miss last weekend's baseball series against Georgetown. It is anticipated that Szczur will be able to return to full baseball activities in the near future. His status will be continually evaluated by the Villanova sports medicine staff.
Szczur leads the baseball team with a .435 batting average in 36 games this season and has been the Wildcats best all-around offensive player. His 70 hits are a team-high and he also leads the squad in slugging percentage (.634), doubles (11), triples (6) and home runs (3). Szczur has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games and is batting .478 (22-46) in that span.
In the last two games he played in, Szczur was a combined 6-for-9 (.667) at the plate with five runs scored and six RBI. His six hits included two doubles, two home runs, one triple and one single. That performance included becoming the 17th player in Division I this season to hit for the cycle, which he did in a 17-10 victory over Temple on April 27.
Szczur is a two-sport star at Villanova who earned All-America honors as a football player this past fall. He helped lead the Wildcats to their first-ever national championship, as Villanova defeated Montana by a score of 23-21 in the title game of the Division I Football Championship. Szczur ran for a career-high 159 yards against Montana and racked up 270 all-purpose yards on the way to being named MVP of the championship game for his performance.
Villanova football coach Andy Talley is in his 18th year of association with the bone marrow donor program and continues to hold testing drives to get people entered into the national registry. This year's drive was held last month and resulted in more than 700 people joining the registry. Since 1992, Talley's efforts have resulted in nearly 20,000 potential donors being successfully tested and entered into the registry.