MISSOULA — It'll be a while before the Montana Grizzlies return to the football field to compete, but the program is still finding ways to make an impact, only this time, off the field.
The Griz football team was out and about on campus Thursday as part of the Be The Match initiative from the National Marrow Donor Program. Be The Match helps connect patients with life-threatening blood cancers to donor matches for a life-saving marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant.
It's the third time in the last five years the Griz football program has been part of the Be The Match program.
"It's awesome to help out, we have such great fans and people that help us out all of the time," redshirt senior linebacker Tyler Flink said. "It's good to be able to kind of give back to the community by doing something like this. And I think we've signed up over 300 people every year, so we've definitely had a lot of matches and stuff like that, and I think we've had a few kids actually help out with the registry get called out and they've done that so it's been an awesome deal for us."
Throughout the day, Griz football players were on campus spreading the word, encouraging students to register as possible matches, as a way to give back to the community and help those in need. By getting students — or anyone — to sign up in their registry, that can connect potential donors with patients in need.
"It's a really neat deal, our guys are involved in the community a lot and this is more nationwide to a degree," UM coach Bobby Hauck said. "And like any donor program, whether it's blood platelets, or bone marrow or organs, it's all about numbers, and the larger the database of people registered, the more chance for a match and you can save lives and you can save somebody across the country, or frankly, across the world."
Be The Match was started by former Villanova football coach Andy Talley and the American Football Coaches Association has since gotten involved. More than 160 sports programs at colleges across the U.S. have since gotten involved with the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation's Get in the Game Save a Life program.
Be The Match always has a spokesperson meet with the team to talk about their mission. In it, they ask how many players have seen cancer affect their lives one way or another.
An overwhelming majority — whether it be players or coaches — have seen cancer affect someone they love, so to help out with Be The Match again is special to the Griz program.
"Unfortunately, cancer is something that is a pretty prevalent thing in our society today," redshirt senior center AJ Forbes said. "I've been affected by it, a number of my teammates and coaches have been affected by it, so I think that being able to come out and try to combat that and try to find matches for people who are in need is a great opportunity for us."
Be the Match is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), a nonprofit organization that matches patients with donors, educates health care professionals and conducts research so more lives can be saved. To learn more about the cure, visit BeTheMatch.org or call 1 (800) MARROW-2.