Mostly known for calling plays, Yale’s football coaching staff has been getting in the game to help register potential bone marrow donors.
Forty years ago, Andy Talley and Larry Ciotti were best friends, roommates, and teammates on the football team at Southern Connecticut State University. Now Talley is in his 28th season as the head coach of the Villanova Football team and Ciotti is the Bulldogs’ running backs coach.
When Talley was contacted by the Be the Match Registry in 2008 to help start drives on other college campuses, Ciotti was more than happy to help his old friend.
“It’s an amazing thing,” Ciotti said. “We can make a difference in life.”
Ciotti added that as the football team began to work on its first drive for Talley’s “Get in the Game, Save a Life” program, Mandi Schwartz ’11 was diagnosed with leukemia. The women’s ice hockey team then joined with the football team in a collaborative effort.
Women’s ice hockey forward Jenna Ciotti ’14 said that the team wanted to begin a donor registration drive as a “search for a match for Mandi within Yale and in her memory.”
That year the Bulldogs registered the most potential donors out of anyone in the “Get in the Game” program with more than 850 registrations, according to Ciotti. Ciotti’s work with the program has had an effect on his players.
“To see how … Coach Ciotti is so passionate about [the drive] made me really want to step my game up last year,” running back Mordecai Cargill ’13 said.
Several other members of the coaching staff have been particularly involved in the program. Head coach Tony Reno said that he works with the players to solicit new potential donors. Volunteer Assistant Chris Gennaro recently donated his bone marrow. He registered at a similar drive in 2009 when he was a member of the University of Maine football team. He stressed that the procedure was painless, and that he hopes to continue working with donor registration drives.
“As long as I’m [at Yale], I’m going to be involved,” Gennaro said.
Director of Football Operations Nick Kray also has ties to the Get in the Game program. Joining the Elis after two years at Villanova, Kray was active in Villanova’s donor registration drives, Ciotti said.
The players have taken the examples of their coaches in working on the drive.
Will McHale ’13 has served as a member of the committee that organizes the Mandi Schwartz Donor Registration Drive, quarterback John Whitelaw ’14 said, but McHale’s role in the program could be adding a new dimension. Ciotti said that McHale was contacted by the National Bone Marrow Registry as a possible donor. McHale declined to comment.
Members of the team who are not a part of the committee are still active in the drive soliciting students to join the registry.
“My main responsibility for the job was being a hawker,” nose guard Chris Dooley ’13 said. “I pretty much harass people on the street and try to get them to sign up for the registry. Not to be arrogant, but I’m pretty good at it.”
Field hockey back Lexy Adams ’13 said she was recruited by a football player to join the registry and became a bone marrow donor. She said that the size of the football team helps the registration drive.
“As a team of around 100 players and each being responsible for their five recruited registrants, [the football team] massively contributes to our large turnouts each year,” Adams said in a message to the News. “[O]n the day of the drive, the football players stake themselves out on Cross Campus, Old Campus and Commons to convince people to make it over to the drive — and with the numbers we’ve registered in the last four years, they are pretty darn good at it.”
So far, the drive has found 14 matches that have led to life-saving bone marrow donations.