Football manager a lesson in hard work, positivity

It was important to Matt Stauder that he be at practice. So he made sure he was there.

Never mind that Stauder, a student manager for IU’s football program, had undergone two separate treatments for his Hodgkins lymphoma in Indianapolis earlier on this recent August day.

He had to make practice. He wanted to be there.

“We were like, ‘He’s dedicated,'” senior running back Ricky Brookins said. “(At the same time), it’s like, ‘We want you to rest!'”

Stauder appreciates the sentiment, but the work is important to him. So is the team. He has his reasons.

Immediately after Stauder received his diagnosis in April, Indiana’s players rallied to show support in all its forms. There were concerned text messages, financial offerings, too. In fact, Brookins led a fundraising push that has now raised more than $23,000 through a GoFundMe page that will help offset medical costs for Stauder’s family.

Stauder can say thank you, and he has. But to him, the best way to demonstrate his appreciation is to do the work he was brought in to complete.

“I just wanted to moreso get out here and show my gratitude and pay homage back to them,” Stauder said.

On Monday, Stauder finished the ninth of 12 treatments in Indianapolis, where doctors told him that the tumor site has decreased by two-thirds.

“I have three more treatments left,” Stauder said. “So hopefully that does the job.”

On Tuesday, he was back at practice — back at his job helping IU’s running backs finish drills. Stauder’s work with the Indiana backfield is how he, Brookins and the rest of the Hoosier running backs grew close. And it is, essentially, how all this support came to be.

When Brookins first learned of Stauder’s health status in the spring, he immediately sent a text message to the running back group chat to brainstorm ideas for how they could help.

“I was like, ‘We got to do something for him. In any way,'” Brookins said. “I was like, ‘We need to do something other than sending a text to him saying get well soon.’ Just talking about it, Coach (Mike) Hart was like, ‘Maybe we should do GoFundMe.’ I was like, ‘That’d be perfect,’ because nobody needs to do that on their own.”

And Stauder hasn’t.

In the four months since Brookins launched the GoFundMe account, 337 people have donated.

“Boy, it’s been heartwarming and heart-wrenching at the same time,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “Heartwarming from the perspective of he’s such an awesome young man and it’s neat to see our players come to his support. Ricky Brookins has kind of been the leader of the group with all of that, but it’s not just been Ricky. It’s been everybody. They love him because he loves this program and he’s so unselfish. He’s a servant.

“It’s heart-wrenching because you know he’s a young man that’s battling cancer and has a tough road ahead of him, but he’s so resilient. When you’re trying to teach things that matter way bigger than football, it’s great to see your young men step up and show that they’re listening, No. 1, and they care about others, No. 2. They don’t just talk about it, they do it.”

Stauder and Brookins are now neighbors this semester, and some nights, they sit inside and play XBOX together. Other times, they sit outside and talk about life.

But they don’t talk about cancer.

“Staying positive is what it’s about,” Stauder said. “I just want to be back out here doing what I love, staying positive.”

Although treatment is ongoing, Stauder’s prognosis is positive. Based off Friday’s CAT scan, the cancer has not spread anywhere else in his body. There are still some large lymph nodes, but doctors are optimistic that the final three treatments will target those.

Stauder is optimistic, too.

“I think it’s crazy how he never felt bad for himself or wanted sympathy from anybody,” Brookins said. “He just acted like, ‘Yeah, I’m going through something, but I’m still here.'”

One comment

  1. Matt—many prayers coming your way. What an example we can all take away from this young man. Keep grinding and keep fighting. What a great attitude.

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