Szczur makes tough calls easy at ‘Nova

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Two previous Villanova players had been a match.

Szczur made three.

Szczur, from Erma, N.J., understood the importance of participating in the program as much as anyone on the Wildcats. One of his closest friends from home had battled leukemia and she was one of the first people he called with the news that he could help a girl not much older than an infant who suffered from juvenile leukemia.

His friend about burst into tears. If Szczur needed any last nudge to convince him he was making the right decision, the reaction clinched it for him.

For Szczur, the tough call was an easy one.

It came with only minor sacrifices.

Szczur nearly missed out on Villanova’s postseason football run toward a national championship to donate his stem cells. Because of scheduling changes with the procedure, he only missed 10 games out of the Wildcats’ baseball season.

The initial call that let Szczur know he could be a match came last November. Had he gone through with the procedure then, the Wildcats might not be the defending Football Championship Subdivision (Division I’s second tier) champions.

Szczur, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound all-purpose star, was an Associated Press All-America first-team selection. He had 51 catches, 610 yards and four touchdowns; 813 yards rushing and 10 TDs; 30 kickoff returns for 816 yards and a score; and he was 4 for 4 passing with two TDs.

He was voted Most Outstanding Player in the FCS National Championship game after he ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns and had another 68 yards receiving in Villanova’s 23-21 victory over Montana.

Yet Talley never wavered when Szczur told him he might have to skip the playoffs.

“Saving someone’s life is a lot more important than a football game,” Talley said.

When the procedure was rescheduled for May, Szczur had to miss pivotal games before the Major League Baseball draft.

He needed daily injections of a drug that helped him generate more white blood cells. When that was over, he went to the hospital and sat still in a chair for the three-hour procedure. One needle was inserted into his left arm to withdraw blood and filter out the blood cells, and another needle was stuck in his right to put the blood back into his body.

Because of confidentially rules, Szczur only knows he donated to a girl between 1 and 2 years old. After a year, he is told who she is and given contact info to get in touch with her if he chooses.

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