SARATOGA SPRINGS — After receiving a donor match that saved his life three years ago, Jim Calhoun is excited to announce that his donor, Christian Montano, signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a rookie free agent.
“We were waiting for the draft that weekend because we knew that this would be his year…he just graduated. We watched the draft all weekend,” Calhoun said. “As soon as the draft ended they called him immediately and said he was probably being looked at by 13 teams. We were ecstatic when we found out.”
Montano is a recent graduate from Brown University where he joined the football team as an offensive lineman. Calhoun admitted that although he’s a diehard NY Giants fan, he would cross over to the Steelers to support Montano.
“I’m always going to be a die hard Giants fan, but since saving my life I’ve drilled more into football than I ever had,” Calhoun said. “I follow the Steelers app and try to read the stats on everything. I was never one into stats on anybody, but it’s amazing the position that [Montano] plays and how he always has to be an alert person…I appreciate what he does as far as on the field. It’s just an amazing thing.”
Ironically, the Steelers season opening game is against the Giants in New Jersey this year. Currently, Calhoun is waiting in anticipation to order Montano’s jersey as soon as the player’s numbers are established.
“I would love to go to that game and I’m hoping I could somehow get my chance to go watch,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun’s battle began in 2017 when a blood test revealed he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In addition to chemotherapy, Calhoun needed a bone marrow transplant.
During his first year at Brown, Montano had signed up for a cheek swab for “Be The Match” with the football team. The swab revealed he matched all 12 genes for transplanting capability with Calhoun.
The two keep in close contact to this day, speaking and texting a few times per week. Calhoun said Montano has a busy schedule now filled with meetings, as Montano isn’t at the Pittsburgh training facility due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We text quite often and his family has welcomed us in like we all have been family forever. I’m waiting for this quarantine to be over so we actually hang out with them again,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun had previously worked for 15-years as a Human Resources Assistant at St. Peter’s Health Partners. This past March, he was excited to get back to work when two-hours into the job, he was sent home. The next day there were two reported cases of COVID.
“I was just getting ready to get out and go to work and then this [virus] happened. It kind of put me back to square one where I’m not working…but there are a lot of people out there now that are not working,” Calhoun said. “I try not to worry about work right now, there is nothing I can do about it, but I just try to make the best out of every day.”
Calhoun is excited for the football season and knows Montano will do well.
“I’m excited and I can’t wait for the season to start,” Calhoun said.