Lehigh Valley

Against grave threat, Coach 'Duke' Donnelly will find way to win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The bright lights have reflected kindly on Coach Mike Donnelly over the years.

"I've done this for 41 years and never worked a day in my life," Coach Donnelly says.

He loves the sport and his school. He's spent the last 20 years of his career at Muhlenberg College.

But his favorite part?

He laughs. "Well, it's definitely the men," he smiles.

The feeling, is mutual, for the guy the players call "Duke."

"Mike "Duke" Donnelly, yeah," chuckles Marco Blasco, a senior who is a linebacker on the team.

"He's a tough guy. He demands a lot from us, and he commands respect, but we do the same with him and I feel that because he pushes us to work hard, we end up winning a lot of games. He loves football, he loves the game of football and he cares about us as human beings, and as players, so you can't ask for much more than that," Marco says.

The coach preaches a simple message: find a way to win.

"He teaches us that all the time, he always says it, and I think it just means in every aspect of our life, just find a way to win whether it's in the classroom, on the football field, just take responsibility for your actions and whatever you gotta do, find a way to get the job done," says senior running back Nick Savant.

Coach Donnelly has won over the years...again and again.

Now, it's time to win a big one. In April, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Duke gathered his players, and told them the news.

"Everyone was kind of devastated, trying to take it in," Nick says.

Marco adds, "You could hear a pin drop in that room."

"He kind of said it straight out, just like he is. He'll tell you exactly how it is. He was like “I'm going to, uh, do what I tell you guys every day…find a way to win and get the job done. That's exactly what I'm going to do with this," Nick recalls.

He needs a bone marrow transplant. Several players stepped up immediately to see if they were a match, and maybe if they're not, the coach says, they'll save someone who is.

"For me, it's easy. I know what I've gotta do, I'm going to do it…I worry about our kids…No matter what happens to me, I want every one of my kids to get their degree, and I want them to have a great football season this fall," Coach Donnelly says.

And they will. Because they know what to do.

"We're playing for Duke," Marco says.

Duke already taught them, and now he's showing them.

No matter what...find a way to win.

Coach Donnelly encourages everyone to sign up for the national bone marrow registry. You can find more information here.


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