One comment former Rhode Island center Matt Greenhalgh is still trying to get used to hearing is "you saved my life." That's what UCF graduate and longtime Knights season ticket holder Kenneth Nuckols tells Greenhalgh every time he sees him.
Back in December 2010, Nuckols was diagnosed with leukemia and his best chance of survival was to find a bone marrow donor. Nuckols and his doctor looked at a list of bone marrow donors and Greenhalgh's name came up as a match. Nuckols had no clue at the time that Greenhalgh was an athlete in his favorite sport, nor did Greenhalgh know how big a college football fan Nuckols was.
"I had no idea. They told me it was an anonymous donation," Greenhalgh said. "All they could do was give me his age and his illness and I said 'alright sign me up.'"
The former URI football player recently graduated and was one of the many Rhode Island football players who were registered as a bone marrow donor. The entire team decided that was something they wanted to do after head coach Joe Trainer presented the idea to the team. Every year since 2009, the team and Trainer have run a bone marrow drive, in association with "Be the Match", to try and get students to become donors.
By rules of the donor list, both Nuckols and Greenhalgh had to wait one year after the donation was made to meet each other. Both met this past summer over the phone and hit it off right away talking about college football.
"That was probably the coolest part of the whole thing is finding out that the guy who saved my life by giving me his bone marrow was a college football player himself," Nuckols said. "That gives us more of a connection with the sport."
"Once Ken called me it was unreal," Greenhalgh said. "I saw a number I don't usually see on my cell phone and I picked it up and it was Ken and we talked for about a half hour and just kept our relationship from there."
When Nuckols found out UCF was going to stay in Florida for its bowl game, he decided he would spend the money he set aside for travel expenses on a plane ticket for Matt to fly down to Orlando for the game.
"The thought occurred to me that since Matt was graduating maybe he would be able to come down," Nuckols said. "Instead of me spending the money to travel, I chose to bring him down for the game. It's just my way of saying 'thank you.'"
The two spent hours talking about college football during their couple days at the bowl game and Greenahlgh said he enjoyed learning everything Nuckols taught him about the Knights. Greenhalgh said he wants to continue to stay involved with the National Bone Marrow Foundation and wants to use his position as a former college football player to get people to donate.
In early December, Greenhalgh's brother donated his bone marrow and a total of four people from the drives he helped run have already donated.
To find out more, see the video above.