Rx in the City 2011
Beyond the Boxscore

Medical touchdown: Charity is more than writing a check for Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub

Medical touchdown: Charity is more than writing a check for Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub

Laurie and Matt Schaub watch Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus patients Julio Arroy and Blake Daniels draw pictures in the Child Life room. Photo by Allen S. Kramer/Texas Children's Hospital
Matt Schaub
Matt Schaub prefers to make his noise on the football field.
News_Schaubs, Riley-Brown, Wallace
Laurie and Matt Schaub, seated at left, with patients Julio Arroy and Blake Daniels, and standing, Michelle Riley-Brown, Dr. Charles T. Hankins and Mark A. Wallace Photo by Allen S. Kramer/Texas Children's Hospital
News_Hankins, Riley-Brown, Schaubs, Wallace
From left, Dr. Charles T. Hankins, chief medical officer of Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus; Michelle Riley-Brown, vice president of Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus; Laurie and Matt and Laurie Schaub; and Mark A. Wallace, president and CEO of Texas Children’s Hospital. Photo by Allen S. Kramer/Texas Children's Hospital
Matt Schaub
News_Schaubs, Riley-Brown, Wallace
News_Hankins, Riley-Brown, Schaubs, Wallace

When Matt Schaub showed up with a spiral notebook, packed full of hand-written ideas, Texas Children's Hospital vice president Laura Shuford knew she wasn't dealing with a token donor. This wasn't an athlete contributing to a cause because his agent advised him that it would look good.

"He had all these ideas, crammed onto the pages," Shuford says. "Some written in the margins. Some of the pages were dog eared. When I saw that, I knew how serious he was about this. You don't always know what to expect in these situations.

 "When I saw the notebook, I knew."

The Schaub notebook details his and his wife Laurie's thoughts on what the new Texas Children's Hospital West Campus can become and how they might be able to help. There are Gary Kubiak gameplans less intricate.

Schaub and his wife would end up donating $108,000 for a new Child Life playroom at the hospital, but the notebook shows that this figures to be a long-time commitment rather than a one-time money grant. The Houston Texans quarterback has a giving plan — one he and Laurie have spent a lot of time honing.

"We knew that we wanted to do something with kids," Matt Schaub says. "But we put a lot of thought into making sure it was something meaningful. We didn't want to do something just to say we did something. We want to be involved and make sure it's really making a difference."

Schaub waited three years to become a full-time starter in the NFL. He had to sit as a redshirt at the University of Virginia. This is someone who's learned that sometimes a little time makes for a better end result.

The Schaubs started volunteering at Texas Children's Hospital first, meeting the hospital's power players — and most importantly, seeing the kids they wanted to help in their world.

"The kids were always smiling in the playrooms," Schaub says. "Even with everything they were going through. They're still kids. They still just want to play."

The notion of contributing to a playroom at the new West Campus hospital soon took root. Every sick kid needs a refuge where he or she can still be a kid. A brightly-colored, fun play center in the middle of a life-and-death battleground is not superfluous. It's essential.

And Matt and Laurie Schaub had definite ideas on what that room needed.

"They suggested things," Shuford says. "They were really involved. In our business, you quickly learn how to tell if someone's authentic or not. They're authentic. They're committed."

Name Power

For Texas Children's — and other mammoth hospitals in Houston's vaunted medical system — high-profile donors like the Schaubs are important, not just for the money that's contributed. The publicity that an NFL quarterback's name brings can  focus attention on a cause and spur more donations.

 The Schaub notebook details his and his wife Laurie's thoughts on what the new Texas Children's Hospital West Campus can become and how they might be able to help. There are Gary Kubiak gameplans less intricate. 

In many ways, sports are intertwined with the Texas Medical Center. One of the biggest fundraisers for Texas Children's Hospital every year is a golf tournament, the Bad Pants Open, the show of bad fashion (and often bad swings) that never takes itself too seriously — unless it comes to raising seven figures. CBS announcer Jim Nantz spearheaded a National Alzheimer Center in his and his father's name at Methodist Hospital. Golf legend Jack Nicklaus has given several talks for the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Phil Mickelson's helped turn the doctors at M.D. Anderson who treated his wife and mother for breast cancer into near celebrities, bringing them up whenever possible. Former Houston Rocket Robert Horry plans to keep his family's 1p36 Deletion Syndrome foundation going through the heartbreaking recent death of his 17-year-old daughter, who suffered from the disease.

Ashlyn Horry passed away at Texas Children's, the same hospital where she was diagnosed.

The examples run across all sports, give hope and credence to the idea that these silly billion-dollar businesses can sometimes do more than distract fans from real life and line rich men's pockets.

"A sports name does make a difference," says noted Methodist neurologist Dr. Stanley Appel, who's heading the Nantz National Alzheimer Foundation. "If it's a committed name. I've seen it firsthand with Jim.

"It means something more if he says it, than if I just say it."

As the media turns its attention from Casey Anthony to trying to make people care about the steroids trial of Roger Clemens (any intelligent fan knows he probably used, few think the government needs to be involved), guys like Matt Schaub quietly go about their business — making caring part of the gameplan,

"Matt has this incredible platform because of his football abilities," Laurie Schaub says. "It'd be a shame for him to not try and use that to do some good off the field. I think both of us recognized that early. We'd both want to be involved in a place like Texas Children's no matter what our jobs were.

"But because of his job, it brings people like you guys out."

A Measured Man

Schaub sets rules for himself when he makes charity appearances, whether it's for Texas Children's or something else the foundation he and his wife created (the GR8 Hope Foundation) is involved in. He is not going to talk about the NFL lockout, or much of anything else football related, if he's there to talk about a sick kids' playroom or another deeper, off-field issue.

The rule can be annoying to sportswriters and TV anchors, but it's Schaub's way of keeping on message.

This is a quarterback who likes to stay under control. When's the last time Schaub created controversy with his mouth? Keep thinking, you'll be searching for a long time.

The 30-year-old from Pittsburgh is one of the more compelling characters in football on the field, capable of leading one of the all-time great Monday Night Football comebacks — and equally capable of tossing that comeback away in one overtime throw. When the game's breaking down and he's playing Kubiak's version of sandlot football, you cannot keep your eyes off him.

But off the field? At 6-foot-5, Schaub will never blend into a crowd, but he's hardly about making sure everyone notices him. He attends a lot of charity events, but much like his Texans' teammate and franchise heartbeat Andre Johnson, he doesn't try to make them about him.

He and Laurie have a 1-year-old daughter Madison, but Schaub hasn't attempted to paint this commitment to Texas Children Hospital West Campus as some neat, new father's push either.

"She's changed our world," Laurie Schaub says of Madison. "It makes you think about what you would do if you were in the situation the families at Texas Children's find themselves in. We're all lucky to have hospitals like this in Houston.

"But even before our daughter, we knew we wanted to work with kids."

Shuford pauses when asked why she thinks the Schaubs chose to focus on the new hospital on the west side.

"I think they saw a need and that's where they decided to help," Shuford says. "Where there was a need. They're very focused and goal orientated."

The proof is in the notebook.