About 7,500 students will graduate from The University of Texas at Austin at the 128th spring commencement this Saturday, May 21. Each graduate has a unique story. To celebrate the Class of 2011, we’re highlighting 10 stories, profiling students who have overcome obstacles, discovered new dimensions and doggedly pursued their academic goals.
As a 17-year-old captain of Austin’s Westlake High School football team, Matt Nader had a bright future. In addition to good grades and a loving family, he had earned a scholarship to play football as an offensive tackle for the Texas Longhorns.
But fate intervened on Sept. 15, 2006 when his heart went into ventricular fibrillation during a game against A&M Consolidated in College Station — a major rival. Thanks to the swift administration of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) the school had on hand, Nader’s life was spared. He soon had an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), similar to a pacemaker, which could deliver life-saving shocks if a life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia occurred.
But his plans to play football for the Longhorns were derailed.
According to Nader, when he broke the news to Coach Mack Brown that he wouldn’t be able to play the following year, Brown told him, “The day that you committed to us, we committed to you, Matt,” Brown honored Nader’s scholarship and invited him to be involved with the team.
Arriving on campus for his freshman year, Nader enrolled in the corporate communication program in the College of Communication and took the opportunity to create a new path for himself by assisting the coaching staff and learning how to run a successful football team — in essence, a business — from the inside out.
When he wasn’t studying or working with the team, Nader was an advocate for the importance of learning CPR and making AEDs mandatory for all University Interscholastic League events. He spoke on behalf of nonprofit organizations and medical device companies creating awareness of how an AED delivered the life-saving shock responsible for him being alive today. He has delivered more than 30 speeches around the country.
“The act of reaching out to people has helped me process my own experience and has enabled me to pay it forward,” said Nader, who will continue down this new path of advocating for medical devices after graduation. He will work for St. Jude Medical, which develops ICDs, as a medical device representative selling the devices to cardiac physicians and assisting in the implantation procedure of cardiac devices.
“After going through the experience of ventricular fibrillation and plotting a new course in life, I’ve found a passion in reaching out to others who could be in a position to save someone’s life,” Nader said.