Butler Alumnus Matt White Rallies Bulldogs While Fighting ALS
It was, indeed, Matt White who spoke to the players on the day before the Bulldogs played in the Final Four for the first time in school history. The fact that speech, as it is generally defined, is almost impossible for White as he continues to battle ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) made his appearance all that more remarkable and motivational, said White's wife, Shartrina.
White graduated from Butler in 1989, and ran track there, before moving into a radio career. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2000 and has outlived the life expectancy his doctors predicted for him. ALS still has no cure.
Through a special computer laser program that employs eye movements to type, his wife said, the wheelchair-bound White composed a six-minute statement to the players. "From the moment they made the Final Four, for four days, he literally worked non-stop,'' said Shartrina White, who read the speech to the players for him. "I'm not kidding you, round-the-clock.
"I told him that the speech was a huge gift to me. We don't get that much of a chance to speak together now. It is a gift to me to have him be able to do that,'' she added, as waves of Butler alumni and fans surrounded her husband of four years in the lobby of a downtown hotel early Friday evening.
The couple arrived from Cape Haze, Fla., Thursday night, then met the Butler team Friday afternoon at a private practice following its public workout at Lucas Oil Stadium. It fulfilled a promise Matt White had made years ago, that he would be there if his alma mater ever made it this far.
"The whole experience has been surreal. The Butler team, how they play, they inspire him,'' Shartrina White said. "He's just so excited to be down here.''
Asked who was the Butler alumnus scheduled to talk to the team, Stevens would only tell reporters at Friday's press conference that it was "a person who's been around our team in the past, that we really feel strongly about.'' White spoke to the team two years ago when it played a game in Florida, near where the Whites live. That visit had been the first time the couple had been out of their home since they had gotten married -- and this Final Four trip is their first ever outside of Florida.
Speaking to local reporters who were familiar with that visit, Stevens later recalled White's previous visit: "It was very inspiring, very touching -- a great, great person, and a lot of guys on the team now haven't met him.''
A donor the Whites would not name had provided a Lear jet to bring them to Indianapolis and arranged to have them attend Saturday's semifinal against Michigan State.
"And we plan on being there Monday, too,'' Shartrina White said with a laugh.