Virginia walk-on has life-saving opportunity

In less than a month, Virginia walk-on linebacker Trevor Grywatch helped save a 60-year-old’s life and saw his first collegiate playing time.

On Monday, Oct. 11, Grywatch sat through a six-hour procedure led by a team of five nurses at VCU’s Medical Center to extract about a cup and a half of desperately needed stem cells for a man with an acute form of leukemia.

“It wasn’t really much to ask at all,” Grywatch said.

This from a guy who had never even given blood before.

From about 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., Grywatch was given a series of injections to boost his blood ingredients so that stem cells and platelets were more readily available to his anonymous donor. Grywatch doesn’t know who the man is or where he’s from, but he does know the value of becoming a bone marrow donor.

His coach was one.

In 2003, Virginia coach Mike London saved his daughter Ticynn’s life with his bone marrow.

“I think a lot of us went into it understanding the importance of it, under how it affected Coach London’s family, how this could help others, but at the same time, until it actually hits home with your family and our football family, I don’t think everyone really understood -- including myself -- what this means,” Grywatch said. “To go through the process and see how it’s affected a lot of people and how important it really was, it opened the football team’s eyes.”

They have London to thank for that.

Virginia did a bone marrow drive this past spring that drew close to 300 donors. All of Virginia’s players contributed and worked the stations. Both Grywatch and defensive tackle Hunter Steward were flagged as potential matches. After a second screening, Grywatch was an identical match.

“It’s so heart-warming to start a process, get the guys involved with it and then have one of your own that goes through it,” London said. “He probably was like the other guys, like, ‘Oh Coach, why do we have to do this, it’s on a Saturday. ...’ But we did it, and the outcome of it is he has an opportunity to save someone’s life. When you can do that and give back of yourself to give to someone else, there’s nothing more special than being able to save someone’s life. I’m extremely, extremely proud of him and happy for him.”

Virginia’s medical staff worked with Grywatch every day for about three weeks to make sure the prep work was done. And you’ve heard of players wearing noncontact jerseys? Well, Grywatch was elevated to the do-no-touch-him list.

“Hands off,” London said with a chuckle.

Grywatch, who joined the Cavaliers on the first day of spring practice and played his first two snaps on the kickoff coverage unit against VMI, said he couldn’t believe he was an identical match.

“When you sign up originally, you never really think about this even being a possibility,” he said. “The odds are against the recipient to find identical matches. The fact that I was, was so shocking to me at first. You really do have the option -- it is an option. Even though you’re signed up through the registry and you are an identical match, there’s no pressure on you to do this. It is completely optional. You can say no. But just the fact that someone’s life could be helped out by you is a pretty incredible feeling and I really wasn’t hesitant to the idea of doing it at all.”

Virginia will hold another bone marrow drive this spring. It’s a program that started at Villanova called “Get in the game, save a life.”

In less than a month, Grywatch managed to do both.