BOULDER, Colo. -- Colorado outside linebacker Derek McCartney missed the first day of spring football drills Wednesday, and he won’t be practicing Friday, either.

He has a good reason — a very good reason.

McCartney is donating bone marrow to a cancer patient. As CU head coach Mike MacIntyre so succinctly put it, “He’s going to save a life.”

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McCartney’s community service is part of MacIntyre’s “Be the Match” program, part of a nationwide effort that saves thousands of lives every year by matching bone marrow from donors with people who have been diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma.

MacIntyre first became involved with “Be the Match” at San Jose State and he brought the idea with him to Colorado.

“Anytime you have a chance to save somebody’s life and this is their last resort, it’s really neat,” MacIntyre said. “I told our kids about it and they gave him a standing ovation because they really realize that this is one of the community service things that we do with our players that is really cool.”

The process is much more involved than simply donating blood. Donors are initially tested for blood types, and those results are then stored in a database. When a need for a specific blood type arises, matches are identified. Potential donors then go through a screening process that involves several doctor’s appointments to make sure the match is perfect. They are given medication to strengthen the platelets, and then are able to donate the marrow.

Denver television station KUSA 9news shadowed McCartney during the process and will air a feature next week.

“He’s an exceptional young man,” MacIntyre said. “He’s going to get his master’s before he’s gone in two years and he’s an excellent leader on our team.”

MacIntyre said CU players promote a drive each spring to encourage people around campus to sign up for the program and become potential donors.

“Every spring, we’ve had about 350-450 people to sign up,” MacIntyre said. “We were the first school to do it in Colorado. We’ve had four young people, one coach’s wife and two other players and now Derek who have been matches and have been able to save a life.”