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Former Villanova cornerback is saving lives and says more black bone marrow donors are needed

A simple cheek swab encouraged C.J. Logan to give a piece of himself, and now he advocates for Be The Match

Former Villanova Wildcats cornerback C.J. Logan is known as a hero, but he considers himself blessed to be contributing to a great need in the black community — bone marrow donation.

In 2009, when then-Villanova head coach Andy Talley put out a call for help to student-athletes, Talley started the Get in the Game, Save a Life campaign, which encourages students to join on bone marrow donation to save lives. According to Villanova’s website, more than 80 college football programs around the country participated and the campaign has resulted in more than 200 identified matches for patients with life-threatening illnesses.

After joining the crusade to encourage students to get tested, Logan found out he was a match through Be The Match, which manages the world’s largest and most diverse bone marrow donor registry.

“I sold raffle tickets, helped raise money, got other students involved, and then of course with that I swabbed my cheek as well, and then when I got the call nearly four years later, my senior year, I was actually pretty shocked because you know it’s very rare for African-Americans, people of color in general to get matches,” Logan said. “I thought some of my teammates may be playing a prank. When I realized it was legit when I got a follow-up email asking me to go ahead and do the extra blood work to see if I’m a definite match for this woman. She was a 33-year-old international woman — essentially all the details I had.”

Nationally, the odds are 1 in 20,000 of finding bone marrow donors for patients with life-threatening blood diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and sickle-cell anemia.

“I’ve actually had random people reach out to me and kind of be like, ‘Thank you. You’re a hero. You may have inspired me,’ and I’m like, that’s awesome. I appreciate that, but at the end of the day, I feel like every human being has a moral duty to do the right thing essentially,” Logan added.

The selfless athlete said he never thought twice about making the lifesaving donation. He was identified as a close human leukocyte antigens (HLA) and underwent a surgical procedure, which is one of two ways of collecting blood-forming cells for transplants. It involved doctors withdrawing liquid marrow from both sides of the back of his pelvic bone and transporting it to the recipient’s location for transplant.

“It’s funny. I’ve been playing contact sports year around since I was 6 years old and I never had surgery,” Logan explained. “It was my first time, so I thought that was pretty ironic. The actual surgery itself was only probably about an hour and a half. Then the recovery was about three weeks. My lower back was pretty sore, it stiffened. I was out of commission in terms of like running and lifting because I was used to doing that as an athlete, so I was more so just like walking. Then it was during my finals week. My teachers, professors, they all worked around my schedule.

“Coach Talley and the football staff, they helped. They drove me to the hospital, picked me up. The hospital itself, they were all helpful. The nurses kept monitoring me, making sure everything was normal and getting back to its normal self before and after because my cell count was slightly different, so they went ahead to make sure everything was back, make sure that all the zinc, whatever, all that stuff was right, so everything went smoothly though.”

A healing C.J. Logan after giving his bone marrow to a patient through the Be The Match registry.

Logan’s participation and donation are important. As an African-American, his contribution fills a great need. According to Be The Match, African-Americans have historically had the lowest odds of finding a match compared with other populations. They have the most diverse genetic tissue types compared with other ethnicities, and not enough have become volunteer marrow donors on the registry.

Nearly 70 percent of patients in need of donors have not found a bone marrow match within their families, so they turn to donor registries such as Be The Match. The program has been a saving grace for recipients such as Shaunise Robinson. The 27-year-old mother, teacher and doctoral candidate at Texas A&M University was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare condition that causes the body to stop producing new blood cells. After initially finding a match, she recently received a bone marrow transplant and continues to participate in the call to action for Be The Match.

Shaunise Robinson was a recent recipient of a bone marrow transplant and continues to advocate for Be The Match.

“Being diagnosed with aplastic anemia really changed my life in so many ways,” Robinson said. “Most importantly, my search for a donor motivated me to become an advocate for others living with conditions like mine, or blood cancers. I’m grateful that I’ve recently received a transplant, and will continue to raise awareness for those who have yet to find their match. It’s extremely important, especially for African-Americans, to become involved.”

Logan plans to continue to help save lives by spreading awareness.

“I’m very young. I’m trying to build my own business essentially, and once I get on my feet, I’d love to start contributing more and doing more awareness. I can do what I can now, try to do interviews, go and talk to people. I can do those kinds of things … I just wanted to try and strive, do good things, and keep in the back of my head what coach Talley said before, ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.’ I think as long as I do that, don’t burn bridges, try to just continue to help people, and everyone has that mentality — just wake, try to do something to help yourself and help others — you’ll be all right.”

Talley has been advocating for patients in need of bone marrow transplants for more than 20 years. He began a registry drive at Villanova in 1992 and it resulted in more than 35,000 potential donors being successfully tested and entered into the national bone marrow registry.

Logan played in all 11 games for Villanova during the 2015 season, registering 12 tackles on the year, including six solo tackles and six assisted stops. He has appeared in 27 career games over the past three seasons and his collegiate totals include 43 tackles (30 solo, 13 assisted) to go along with three passes defended and a forced fumble.

Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.