The holidays have come early for a 1-year-old girl with leukemia. Villanova University wide receiver Matt Szczur is a perfect match to be a bone marrow donor for an anonymous girl.
Szczur, a Lower Cape May Regional High School graduate, learned Monday he could help save a life, but received just basic information on the baby because of patient confidentiality rights.
"It's an awesome early Christmas present, the gift of life," said Szczur, 20, a Lower Township resident. "If I was in that situation I would want someone to do the same."
Szczur, a junior, and the rest of the Villanova football players sign up every year through the team's bone marrow donor drive.
They enlist in the National Marrow Donor Program and most people never get a call. Villanova coach Andy Talley has had few players become donors, including Holy Spirit High School graduate Michael Holland, who did it in 2007.
One month ago, Szczur received a call from a representative from the program who said he could be a match.
He gave blood for further testing and was worried when he didn't hear back for weeks.
"It was between me and five other people," Szczur said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. "When I didn't hear from the guy I was getting kind of nervous, but when they called me Monday and told me I was a perfect match I was shaking."
There are two methods for potential donors. One is by donating blood to extract blood-forming cells. In the other, doctors take out marrow from the hip with a needle, which Szczur is leaning toward doing. The procedure is scheduled for late- to mid-December but likely after the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) national championship game on Dec. 19.
The Wildcats (9-1) are ranked third in the FCS Coaches' Poll. They are one of the best teams in the country with Szczur one of its top players. In 10 games, Szczur has 392 rushing yards with four touchdowns, 335 receiving yards and four touchdowns and has completed three passes for two touchdowns. He is also the team's kick returner, averaging 28.8 yards with one touchdown.
Talley began the program in the 1990s and has expanded it to include more than the Villanova community. Other schools have joined the drive, including Penn, Temple and Maine.
"It's great because it helps people across the country," Szczur said. "I never thought I was going to be called."
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