For more information on Be The Match or to join the registry, visit join.bethematch.org/samphilippi
PHILADELPHIA – On the field, Sam Philippi plays a position (safety) literally named for the security it provides a defense under pressure. Only a sophomore, he has provided that safety net in a big way in 17 career games for the Red and Blue, with six career interceptions and an immediate impact as a true freshman starter on 2015’s Ivy League championship team.
How fitting is it, then, that a young man who thrives when called upon by his teammates and coaches to lock down opposing forces and create momentum-altering turnovers will soon turn from game-changing moments to life-changing ones?
Each spring, the University of Pennsylvania football team organizes a “Be The Match” Donor Registration Drive to help build a nationwide donor base for the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). The 2016 drive has already yielded one successful match – and it involves Philippi.
This past March, Philippi – then a freshman in the midst of his second semester – was busy with his teammates, helping spread the word about the registration drive and working in Houston Hall that day as hundreds of members of the Penn community took a brief moment to join the registry and potentially save someone else’s life.
Just short of nine months later – the first week of December to be exact – Philippi will undergo a procedure to donate his marrow to a 30-year-old leukemia patient thanks to another successful match from the program.
“I was busy trying to get people to sign up for our drive, and wasn’t thinking too much about it when I was getting swabbed myself,” Philippi said. “I said to the person next to me when I was getting swabbed ‘this would be crazy if I get picked’ but the next day you have other things to do, and you kind of forget about it.”
Philippi will never forget the call he got this summer just before returning to University City for his sophomore year as a safety on the defending Ivy League champions. Nor will he forget the moment in early October when a final set of testing confirmed that he is a suitable match and will participate in a moment that can only be considered life-changing for everyone involved.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” Philippi said. “It happened so fast, all things considered. You can be in the registry for 10-20 years and never get matched, you could almost forget you had registered in the first place. But, here I am, less than a year later and getting ready to donate.”
Philippi will join the hundreds of people who have donated through the “Be The Match” registry, including former Penn football players Robert Gawlas and J.P. Grant who successfully donated bone marrow in 2011 after joining the registry through Penn Football’s annual drive.
"Our participating in Be The Match is something I have always been proud of," said George A. Munger Head Coach of Football Ray Priore. "Our program is all about family, and helping our student-athletes understand that sometimes family extends beyond the people you grew up with and beyond the walls of our locker room. Oftentimes, it's a process for young men to understand just how big of an impact they can have in the world. Sam has learned that lesson very quickly, and I am just as proud of him as he is of being in this position to do a great thing for someone."
Just under 18 months removed from being in high school, Philippi has quickly accelerated the learning curve when it comes to the maturation process.
“This is the real world, you’re talking about people’s lives,” said the Coto de Caza, Calif. Native. “That is what helps me when the schedule gets complicated with class, football and coordinating the appointments and tests. It’s all worth it when you know you have the opportunity to help save someone’s life.”
All that remains between Philippi and his early December procedure is a final set of tests on November 14 – three days after his Quakers take on Harvard in a nationally televised game on NBC Sports Network in what is shaping up to be a game with significant Ivy League title implications.
If all goes well, Philippi will make the short trip from University City to Hahnemann Hospital in downtown Philadelphia and provide someone he’s never met with the biggest game-changer he ever could – a new lease on life.
About the NMDP
The NMDP facilitates unrelated marrow and cord-blood transplants as a single point of access for a long-standing collaborative network of national and international leading medical facilities in marrow and cord blood transplantation. The NMDP connects patients, doctors, donors and researchers to the resources they need to help more people live longer and healthier lives. For more information call 1(800) MARROW-2 or visit www.marrow.org.
About Penn and “Be The Match”
For each of the past nine years, the University of Pennsylvania football team has been participating in “Be The Match” drives with the NMDP. The initiative was started by Villanova Head Football Coach Andy Talley, who has dedicated more than 15 years to raising awareness about the need for marrow donors and increasing the likelihood that all patients receive the life-saving transplant they need. In addition to Penn, more than 50 college football programs participated in the program this year.