When Anthony Lotti and Sam Philippi submitted their DNA samples, they quickly forgot about it. They didn’t even expect a call back. They also didn’t expect to have the opportunity to save a life, appear on national news, get tickets to the Super Bowl, and receive a FaceTime call from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Penn football has long had a partnership with Be The Match, a nonprofit organization and global leader in bone marrow transplantation. The team doesn’t require its players to donate to the registry, but Lotti, a junior who is now a manager for the team, and Philippi, a senior captain and defensive back, did. After they submitted their samples, they didn’t think anything of it.
“We did not expect whatsoever to even get a call in the first place. They say it’s a less than one percent chance. You’re pretty much throwing your DNA sample in, and it’s gone with the wind,” Lotti said.
Even once they got a callback about being a possible match, the chances of being picked are slim. They still had to go through blood tests, and their medical history had to be checked.
Once the match was made, the time came for the bone marrow extraction. Philippi’s procedure was on Dec. 6, 2016. Lotti’s was this summer, and his was more invasive.
Lotti was matched with a 37-year-old mother battling Leukemia. After going through all of the necessary tests, he underwent a three-hour surgery. His bone marrow was extracted using a needle. Lotti's recovery was about two weeks, and it hasn’t affected him physically since.
At the six-month mark after the surgery, Lotti will get an update on how the recipient is doing. He’ll have an opportunity to meet her and her family in person one year after the surgery on July 24, 2020.
After the recovery, Lotti and Philippi didn’t think about it very much. They knew they had done a good deed and that they would be updated in the future, but that was about it. That changed on Nov. 4. They were told that Be the Match wanted to interview them to promote their story. Instead, they got a call from Roger Goodell.
“Our faces in the video said enough. We were just as shocked as everybody else,” Lotti said.
“It’s cool that we’ll go to the Super Bowl, but it’s even cooler that we’ll have that memory for a lifetime.”
Since the video, which can be seen on Penn football’s Instagram page, the story has been picked up nationally.
“We have a friend who works for a news station in Boise, [Idaho]. They aired it in Boise,” Philippi said. “When we do the drive, a lot of people kind of look the other way. They don’t see the significance of it. Hopefully [our story] helps people stop and think about it more.”
The media attention has been a bit of a circus, but Lotti and Philippi have been able to see the funny side of it.
“People are like, ‘you need someone to go to the Super Bowl with, I’m your guy!’” Philippi joked. “We’re not formally declaring who we’re taking yet because everyone has been so nice to us.”
“I have a waitlist of about 20 people," Lotti joked. "If anyone wants to come, they’d better pay up."