IU manager now cancer-free

First, a FaceTime call to Indiana running back Ricky Brookins. Then, a visit to IU running backs coach Mike Hart.

After learning on Nov. 5 that his cancer was in remission, and the worst of this trying time in his life was through, Matt Stauder drove back to Bloomington eager to share the news.

“Greatest feeling in the world,” Stauder said.

And who better to share it with than the players and coaches who made him feel like one of their own.

Since his Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis in April, Stauder found warm support inside of Indiana’s football program. He returned the love by continuing to fulfill his manager’s duties while he went through chemotherapy. Throughout the past six months, Indiana football has given Stauder a sense of normalcy amid the changing nature of his health.

When he was declared cancer-free earlier this month, Stauder sought those who helped him the most.

“When he found out, I talked to his mom,” Hart said. “His mom said he wanted to come straight back to tell us. When he came upstairs I was in meetings, so he didn’t interrupt. That’s just the kind of kid he is. The biggest news of your life and he didn’t want to interrupt a football meeting to let us know he was cancer-free and in remission?

“He texted me and I told him, ‘Come see me, man!’ Just so happy for him. When you think things are bad, you know what he’s going through and what he’s been through.”

Stauder’s cancer diagnosis in April came mere months after his father died of a heart attack in September 2017, a tragic sequence that those in IU’s football program tried to remedy.

Brookins immediately led a fundraising push that has now raised nearly $32,000 in donations that will help offset medical costs for Stauder’s family.

Others, too, tried to soften the blows.

After Indiana’s first game of the season, a 38-28 win at Florida International, IU coach Tom Allen presented Stauder with the game ball. A community fundraising event at Bloomington’s Wagon Wheel restaurant in September also raised funds for Stauder’s medical costs.

“All the support and prayers I got from the Bloomington community, the IU football family and friends and family, just everybody, I can’t thank them enough,” Stauder said.

People were eager to help Stauder, because he was driven to assist others, even as he fought through chemotherapy.

Stauder, who works primarily with Indiana’s running backs, estimates he missed a handful of IU practices while undergoing treatment, but always returned to Memorial Stadium the following day ready to work.

Not that Hart was surprised.

“Last year, he got a concussion in practice when (former quarterback Richard) Lagow hit him in the head with a ball,” Hart said. “We all know how hard Lagow throws the ball. The doctor told him not to do anything and he’s still taking notes during the game for me. I get to the office on Sunday morning and all my notes are right there as if he was on the sideline. That’s the kind of kid he is. Phenomenal kid (who was) raised the right way and cares a lot about Indiana football.”

Players notice that, too, and appreciate his work behind the scenes.

“He’s definitely close with us,” running back Stevie Scott said. “That’s a go-to guy whenever I need something fixed or help with anything. I’m definitely very appreciative of him. I treat everybody with respect, but definitely him. He’s with us every day and I look at him as a big brother.”

Stauder’s dedication to Indiana football hasn’t gone unnoticed outside the program, either.

Last week, he was nominated for the Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award, an honor that counts Eric LeGrand and James Conner among its previous winners.

“I’m blown away, especially to have my name in that caliber of people who have won it in the past,” Stauder said. “It’s just surreal to me, a privilege and an honor. I’m humbled to be nominated for that. It’s pretty special.”

Stauder will be on the sidelines with Indiana when the Hoosiers travel to Michigan for Saturday’s 4 p.m. kickoff at the Big House, just like he has been all season.

He’s appreciative of yet another opportunity to assist the team, as well as the love and support he’s received throughout the past few months.

And he hopes others can find hope through his will to keep working and fighting.

“Everybody out there continuing to fight cancer, you can beat it,” Stauder said. “Keep staying strong.”