By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Villanova two-sport standout Matt Szczur is expected to be back playing for the Wildcats' baseball team on Friday, May 14, after a two-week layoff. He considers his time on the sideline to be well spent, considering he donated bone marrow on Tuesday for a 19-month-old girl who is a leukemia patient.
Doctors are remaining cautious with Szczur, the Wildcats' star wide receiver in football and catcher in baseball, who feels fine other than the aches and pains that go along with surgery. It was discovered last fall through his registry in the National Marrow Donor Program's Be The Match foundation that his peripheral blood cells were a match for the young girl, whom he has never met. The surgery was postponed three times before it was performed at a Philadelphia hospital.
"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."
The side effects of the medication that Szczur took before the surgery can include an enlarged spleen, so he was kept out of last weekend's three-game series against Georgetown. The Wildcats will play another Big East three-game series this weekend at Rutgers, and then non-league games against Temple and Saint Joseph's next week. The hope at Villanova is for Szczur to play in the Big East series against Notre Dame May 14-16.
People within Villanova's reigning FCS championship program are hoping Szczur will return for his senior season, although he is eligible for the Major League Baseball amateur draft June 7-9. He is batting .435, which is a team high and second-best in the Big East, along with 20 extra-base hits, 34 RBIs and a .483 on-base percentage through 36 games. He is sophomore-eligible in baseball after missing the 2008 season because of a football-related injury.
Of course, Szczur is an equally talented football player. As a junior last fall, he made The Sports Network's All-American first team and helped lead the Wildcats to their first FCS title. In their 23-21 win over Montana in the title game, he combined for 270 rushing, receiving and return yards, and scored two touchdowns while earning game MVP honors. Although the 20-year-old has been considered more of a candidate for pro baseball than football, his stock has risen among NFL scouts, with comparisons made to Wes Welker.
Many Villanova students have been involved with the National Marrow Donor Program through football coach Andy Talley's 18-year association with it. His efforts have led to nearly 20,000 potential donors being entered into the registry.
"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 OK 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."
05/06 16:16:18 ET