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49ers coach gives San Francisco man a second chance at life

Jan 10, 2023 by Gift of Life News

November 28, 2022 was a special day for two residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. Gift of Life Marrow Registry stem cell donor Daniel “Deuce” Schwartz, who serves as the Offensive Quality Control Coach for the San Francisco 49ers, was introduced to the man whose life he saved, Tony Hartman. Coincidentally, Tony is not only a San Francisco resident, he’s a faithful 49ers fan!

He overcame Acute Myeloid Leukemia thanks to a peripheral blood stem cell transplant from Deuce.

The introduction was held as part of the National Football League’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative sponsored by Shoe Palace. Although there was no game that day, the long-anticipated meeting between the two men was held on the field at Levi’s® Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. In the United States must remain anonymous for the first year after the transplant, so when they can finally meet it is an incredible moment.

“It was amazing,” said Tony. “When he came out, I wanted to run and hug him, but I had to stay in place for the video cameras because they were all set up for the shot. Then we hugged and I just burst into tears. I’m not a crier at all – it just came out of me.” 

“Once I received the phone call that I was a match, I was all in,” said Deuce. “knowing you can help save someone’s life is more motivation to do something than anything else you can think of.” 

Deuce joined the registry as a volunteer stem cell or marrow donor when he was 19 years old and on a Birthright Israel trip touring the country. Gift of Life Marrow Registry came in to make a presentation about the need for new donors to join the registry and help save the lives of those battling blood cancer and inherited immune disorders. 

“There was only an upside to joining the registry, and I’m all for helping people,” said Deuce, who completed a simple cheek swab kit and health questionnaire on the spot.  Nine years later he got that miraculous phone call from the organization’s Florida headquarters that he matched a patient in need and had the opportunity to save a life. 

“I donated in October 2021 during the football season so the timing was a little tricky,” said Deuce. “However, it was painless and easy, I binge-watched Ted Lasso, and Gift of Life handled everything.” 

Tony had been diagnosed in June 2021, after visiting his doctor to complain about having recurring nosebleed several times while at altitude.  He was fortunate that he could be treated at the University of California San Francisco Hospital, just ten minutes from his house. Tony now celebrates his transplant day, October 25, as his second birthday. 

After their heartwarming introduction, Deuce gave Tony a tour of the stadium, and they sat down for a visit to learn more about each other. 

“When “My Cause, My Cleats” first started a few years ago, I didn’t think twice about it,” said Deuce. “But ever since I got the match with Tony, Gift of Life completely changed my opinion on things. Having the ability to do this and raise awareness is the coolest thing! This is a platform to raise awareness for Gift of Life and for anyone to swab – it’s really special.” 

But the story doesn’t end there!  

“What are you doing in mid-February?” Deuce asked Tony.

“No way, get out, get out!” exclaimed Tony.

“Well, if you’re not doing anything, how does two tickets to Super Bowl 57 sound?” asked Deuce, pulling two Super Bowl tickets from his pocket and handing them to Tony. 

“You’re pretty special,” said Tony. “Thank you, thank you so much.” 

Tony, now 65 and retired, loves skiing and being active outdoors, and is married to Laurie. When he’s not coaching, Deuce enjoys playing golf, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. 

The National Football League’s “My Cause, My Cleats” program helps raise awareness of charitable causes supported by the players during week 13 of the football season. During that week, players and coaches have the opportunity to promote a cause they support by wearing a pair of custom designed cleats.