The Falcon Football team became bone marrow donors

Members of the University football team were recently given the opportunity to become potential bone marrow donors, and almost all agreed to sign up.

The donation program, called “Be The Match” is the world’s largest listing of potential bone marrow donors.

Thousands of college football players across the country have been recruited in the past few weeks through the program “Get in the Game. Save a Life.” The program is aimed to increase the ranks of potential donors on the Be The Match registry.

Head football coach David Clawson said that he has been a part of the program for many years. Clawson worked as the assistant coach at Villanova University, where the program originated. Villanova head coach Andy Talley started encouraging his players to join the registry 15 years ago. Clawson has continued the tradition here at the University.

“A lot of college football programs across the country do it and we adopted it here a few years ago,” Clawson said.

The Bowling Green football program has had the largest “Be The Match: Get in the Game” program in the state of Ohio for the last three years.

“Our players really do a lot for the program,” Clawson said. “It’s been a really successful program for us. The players have been amazing with it, very few people turned it down.”

Donating bone marrow can save the lives of people with certain cancers and blood diseases, according to the Be The Match website. Seventy percent of people in need of a transplant do not have a donor in their family and depend on the Be The Match registry to find a match to save their life.

University football player Stephen Stein said that when his coach suggested the team join the registry, he was behind him 100 percent.

“After hearing the story about the wrestler from New Hampshire who gave up his career to save someone, I knew I would be willing to do the same” Stein said. “Saving a life would be more memorable than playing football, in my opinion.”

According to the Be The Match website, stem cells in blood are vital to patients. Stem cells in the bone marrow are the building blocks of blood. The red and white cells as well as the platelets, are all produced by the stem cells within the bone marrow.

After joining a donor registry such as Be The Match, it can often be weeks, months or years before a donor is contacted with a match. Some people may change their mind during this time and drop out of the procedure. Football player Coy Brown says he would still be willing to go through with it.

“I would be willing to follow through with the procedure and potentially save another individual’s life,” he said. “I am a caring person and if there is any way I can help someone else, I am more than willing to do so. I wanted to become a donor not just because of my coach, but because I knew by simply signing up I was making a difference in someone’s life.”

A Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure. The doctor uses a hollow needle to withdraw the liquid marrow from the back of the pelvic bone(s). Many donors then receive a transfusion of their own blood, after some of the necessary stem cells have been removed. The patient sometimes feels soreness in the lower back for a few days, but the marrow is completely replenished by the body within 4 to 6 weeks. Since the process itself is an outpatient procedure, the donor can return home the same day.

Fellow player Ronnie Goble was contacted by the Be The Match program two years ago with a match. After donating more blood samples, it turned out he was not a perfect match. However, he says he would be willing to do it again.

“I would want to be a donor because of the opportunity to help someone and [suffer] for them,” Goble said.

Some of the football players said the process of becoming a donor was quick and easy. They were asked to fill out a packet and were instructed to use cotton swabs to collect cheek cells from the mouth. These cells are the ones used to find matches with those people in need of bone marrow. After giving cell samples, the participant is placed on the list for future contact if a match is made.

“The bone marrow drive was a fun experience and focused on an important task, which is helping others,” Brown said.