First and Goal with Trevor Grywatch
Junior linebacker and walk-on Trevor Grywatch became the face from Mike London’s April initiative, “Save a Life, Get in the Game” an outreach for finding bone marrow donors. The Ashburn, Va., native recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to discuss being a perfect bone marrow match for a recipient who was in dire need of a transplant, the entire process of being a donor and all those who helped him through the process of saving a life.
Question: When you first participated in the football team’s bone marrow drive last spring, did you ever imagine the possibility that you might someday have the chance to save someone’s life like this?
Grywatch: It honestly never crossed my mind. We had a representative from the bone marrow drive speak to us and explain what we’d be doing with the whole setup for the event. And then they obviously explained to us if people wanted to signup, what that would entail. Really, the odds are pretty astronomical and the possibility is just against you being a perfect match. I didn’t think anything would come about it, but it ended up working out and it was awesome.
Question: What was your initial reaction upon learning you were an actual match for someone?
Grywatch: I was pretty excited to tell you the truth when I got the phone call. It was something that was really unexpected, and at the same time, it was something that won’t happen to you everyday. Just the opportunity that was presented was too great to pass up. I was just really lucky to be apart of it.
Question: So once you made the easy decision to donate, what was the actual transplant process like?
Grywatch: The actual day of the procedure, I got to VCU around eight o’clock and we left at 3:30 p.m. Within that time period, there was a series of injection shots that I was getting-filgrastim is the name of the drug-and what that was doing was kind of boosting the blood ingredients that I already had. We’re looking at stem cells and also some white blood cells, so they were ready to be taken out. The procedure itself is a six-hour blood withdrawal. That wasn’t a physical struggle at all, but it was definitely a mental challenge, being in a chair for six hours with limited movement. But at the same time, it puts it into perspective what your recipient is going through. It really wasn’t much to ask.
Question: How was the bone marrow actually withdrawn during that procedure?
Grywatch: Well, it goes in a loop on your arm-there’s a point of where they take it out, then an exit point, then reentry back through the right arm. It goes into a machine that is a centrifuge, spinning the blood and also taking out a certain part. For me, that was the stem cells that my recipient was interested in receiving. Throughout the six-hour process, it only gives you about a cup-and-a-half of what they’re looking for. It’s a slow process, but at the same time, it’s pretty specific what they’re looking for. I had five nurses working with me the entire day-it’s an absolutely wonderful staff over there at VCU. They could not have been more supportive, and they helped me with everything I needed.
Question: Do you know any specifics regarding how your bone marrow was used, or is that information kept private by the registry?
Grywatch: It was an acute form of leukemia, and the patient was a 60-year old male that I was a match to. He needed healthy stem cells, that’s pretty much as far as I can elaborate.
Question: Do you know anything else about the man who received the transplant?
Grywatch: I know the cup-and-a-half of stem cells got on a plane, and it was going somewhere else in the country, but that’s about all I know. I don’t know if it took or not, or if he’s doing well with it. They keep it pretty anonymous for at least the first year, but I believe that there’s an opportunity if he’s willing-and obviously I’d be more than willing-to meet up. When that time period comes, the National Bone Marrow Registry will let us know.
Question: Even though you may have to wait another year before learning more about the man whose life you might save, how much has he been in your thoughts since the transplant?
Grywatch: Coach (George) Morris is kind of our team minister in a sense-he runs the Fellowship of Christian Athletes program and bible study, which probably a quarter of our team attends regularly-and we have a list of people that we pray for constantly, whether it’s members of the team or outside members and he’s definitely someone that’s in my thoughts and prayers. I find myself so fortunate to be here, to be playing football, to be at such a great school. There are people out there who aren’t as fortunate and who are possibly in the last couple of weeks of their life. That’s what I think of. Hopefully, it goes well for him.
Question: How did your teammates involved in the drive react when they heard that you were a match?
Grywatch: Coach London made the announcement that I was going to be a perfect match for this individual, and it definitely got the team fired up. I think a lot of us went into the drive understanding the importance of it, understanding how if effected Coach London’s family, and how this can 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 understands what it really means. To go through the process, to see how it has affected a lot of people, and to see how important it really was-it definitely opened up the football team’s eyes.
Question: Do you feel that going through the procedure and knowing that you might save someone’s life has put football in perspective for you?
Grywatch: It puts football in perspective, it puts flu shots in perspective. It puts a lot of things in perspective, because everything we do revolves around just living. The possibility that someone doesn’t have that opportunity anymore and that you also have the opportunity to save them-there’s nothing that’s quite like that.
Question: We’ve learned the details of your bone marrow transplant, but we still don’t know much about Trevor Grywatch, the person. How did your decision to walk on to the football team come about?
Grywatch: One of my goals was to be a collegiate football player or a collegiate hockey player. I started out playing both, but football ended up working out best. Coach London gave me the opportunity to be here, and honestly, it really has been a dream come true.
Question: You are from Ashburn, Va., but you attended Culver Military Academy in Indiana. How did you end up going there for high school?
Grywatch: I was a pretty serious hockey player, so that was what kind of led me there. I really thought hockey was my thing. I was able to play three sports up there-football, hockey, and baseball. When I signed up, it was one of the top five programs in the country for 18-and-under hockey, and I was lucky enough to receive a Batten Scholarship-one of six full scholarships awarded to incoming freshmen. With the combination of hockey and receiving a scholarship, it was a no-brainer for me. It just happened to be a military school, but that wasn’t really the purpose. It’s just a school that teaches leadership through the military stuff.
Question: Whatever happened to hockey?
Grywatch: There’s a gap between hockey and college-probably only about 10 or 20 percent of high school players actually get to go right to college from their senior year. Most join a junior program and spend one or two years developing their skills there, which I had the opportunity to do. But during that time, if you were to get hurt or if anything were to fall apart hockey-wise, you’re not in school and now you’re without hockey, as well. So when I got accepted to UVa-just the combination of the academics, the in-state tuition, and my lofty goal of maybe sometime joining the football team all together made my choice pretty easy to give up hockey and come here.
Question: You did not walk on the football team until this past March, as a sophomore. Making the team after a two-year layoff from sports makes the accomplishment seem even more impressive. How were you able to stay in such good shape during the time off?
Grywatch: I was obviously looking for a sport when I came to college-something to focus on for the time being-and I decided to go out for the rowing team my first year. I knew there was a club hockey team, but at the same time, it was like if I’m going to be done with it, I was ready to move on. Rowing just seemed to keep me in shape and opened the best possibilities for building a good friendship group and having that team mentality. It’s an ultimate discipline and workout, but going into my second year, I realized I wasn’t gaining the weight I needed to. Football conditioning was a little different than what rowing was building me up for. It was a tough decision to leave some of my teammates on the rowing team, but I also knew that if I was to achieve this football goal, it needed to happen now. So I spent the entire time from September until March just going to the AFC [Aquatic and Fitness Center] everyday. At least five days out of the week-running, lifting. I added thirty pounds. It was something that I put a lot of work into-it wasn’t a flimsy ‘maybe I’ll go out for it.’ I let Coach Groh’s staff know I was serious about it, and then obviously when they left, I got in contact with Coach London’s staff and they said March would be the best option.
Question: When you say ‘best option,’ do you mean you had to tryout for the team?
Grywatch: I came out the first day of spring practices, and they gave me tryouts on the first and second day. I was lucky enough to be apart of the third one.
Question: Were you nervous at all during tryouts?
Grywatch: Absolutely. Anytime you devote yourself that long and that hard to something and kind of change your body and change everything about you-I had put a lot into it and I was really hoping that it would come through. If it didn’t, I’m pretty sure I would’ve given it another shot when they said I could. But you never want it to happen like that-you always want to achieve what you set out to do, as hard as it may be. It was a blessing they gave me this opportunity.
Question: It must have been thrilling to hear you had finally accomplished your dream. How did you first find out you made the team?
Grywatch: I had actually been dealing throughout the entire process with one of the football administrative assistants Dawn Best. She had been my liaison to the football team-anything I needed, she would let me know about, and vice-versa. So she actually called me personally to let me know, which meant a lot. She was the first person I talked to, and then I got to talk with Coach Brown and some of the other position-specific coaches after that.
Question: Did you call your parents after hearing the news?
Grywatch: Absolutely. My parents were the first to know about it, and then some of my friends on the rowing team, who had obviously been very supportive.
Question: Once you made the team, did you stay here during the summer then to work out?
Grywatch: I stayed here all summer. I knew had a lot of catching up to do, so I worked with Coach Hourigan and his staff. I was here from the day school ended-I just didn’t leave. I stayed here throughout the entire summer.
Question: What was it like not being on your own anymore and actually having other teammates to workout with again?
Grywatch: It was different. I wouldn’t say some of my techniques when I was working out alone were the safest just because a lot of times, you’re working out when it works for you, not when it works for a workout partner. A lot of times you go without a spotter, which is not recommended, but at the same time, it was what I needed to do. To have the nice facilities, the protein shakes, the coaching staff, the technique help-I was doing a lot of things wrong that I never would have known until I showed up. Just having that team mentality back really pushes you a lot harder than you could ever push yourself. You’re all aspiring to one goal-winning championships. Just getting in there with the music pumping was great. It was definitely something I was really looking forward to, and I’m really happy it worked out.
Question: Now let’s finish up with the usual “quick hit” questions. Favorite food?
Grywatch: Alfredo-any type. I’ll say fettuccini alfredo just to keep it simple, but I love alfredo sauce. Put it on any pasta, and it’s great.
Question: As a serious hockey player growing up, you must have a favorite NHL team, right?
Grywatch: It’s got to be the Washington Capitals. I grew up in Northern Virginia and have lived within a 40-minute radius of D.C. my entire life, other than the time I spent in Indiana so. Watching them do as well as they’re doing now is just really exciting.
Question: Favorite movie?
Grywatch: This is going to sound really cliché, but honestly, it really was my favorite movie way before I even did football or anything like that-Rudy.
Question: Culver is in Indiana-were you able to pay homage to any of the famous Rudy filming sites in South Bend while you were there?
Grywatch: My best friend at Culver-Barrick Bollman-actually had season tickets to Notre Dame football, so I went to every single Notre Dame game for four years. The Bollman family treated me like I was a son of theirs, and it was a really awesome experience to see that type of college football. It really developed the dreams of possibility getting out there.
Question: Did you ever think about going to Notre Dame and attempting your own re-creation of Rudy?
Grywatch: Virginia was really my number-one choice-and the only choice-as far as a school I wanted to attend.
Question: What was your favorite Halloween costume growing up?
Grywatch: Obviously the Power Ranger suit, back when I was like five or six. I wanted to be the Red Ranger or the Green Ranger, but I got stuck with the blue one because I went shopping a little too late.
Question: When you go to the movie theater, what do you usually get at concessions?
Grywatch: Sno-Caps, without a doubt. Drinks may change, but definitely Sno-Caps is a solid.
Question: Finally, what would you like to do after college?
Grywatch: I’d really like to be apart of the front office of a professional sports franchise. The dream job in that type of profession would be a general manager or a president of a team. I’m really happy with just trying to be apart of a team because I know playing will end eventually and those are the only jobs you can win championship rings in. Just that team mentality-keeping a hold of that-I feel those are some of the best jobs around for athletes.