Gophers homecoming brings together bone marrow transplant patient and donor

Manuel and Kyle share a hug during Saturday's meeting.

Saturday's homecoming for the Golden Gophers included plenty of reunions. But perhaps the most heartwarming was a man who got to meet the person who kept him alive with a bone marrow donation.

Two years ago, Children's Hospital patient Kyle Tanner appeared in a viral video on Coach P. J. Fleck's Twitter where he helped give a scholarship to Gophers redshirt senior Justin Junneman using a T-shirt cannon. Six months before that, Kyle had a bone marrow transplant at Masonic that saved his life.

Saturday, in front of a crowd of fans at the Gophers game, he got to meet the person who made the donation. But, Tanner says he wasn't always a Gophers fan.

"I grew up right near Ann Arbor, and I grew up going to University of Michigan games," he said. "I never thought when I was a kid that I would be a Gopher fan."

But, this team and this school have supported Kyle Tanner through the most trying of times, through Fanconi anemia and a bone marrow transplant at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

"The transplant did not cure me of Fanconi anemia; it’s a terminal illness, but it certainly has given me many more years and has prevented that leukemia from happening," he said.

Kyle stands on the sidelines ahead of the special moment.

Before now, Kyle’s donor, Manuel Suilmann, had never been to Minnesota and never been to a college football game.

"I am extremely excited right now," Suilmann said. "I really want to meet him, and have a nice beer with him."

It's only fitting that two years after the transplant, the Gophers homecoming game would become the meeting place for these two unlikely fans.

Manuel told us he was excited to meet Kyle and wanted to share "a nice beer with him"

"Kyle and Manuel have known each other’s' names for three weeks, and have never met -- until right now," the game announcer explained.

They weren’t always Gophers fans, but now the Golden Gophers will forever hold a place in their hearts. Manuel, only 23, and Kyle, only 25, are both encouraging everyone to get out there and register with be the match.