New Mexico State University has a bit of an attendance problem at its football games, so much so that it's actually offering cash prizes to students to stay at the games. The latest winner of a $2,000 prize was Iraqi war veteran and double amputee Matthew Zajac. But he won't get his winnings, because he wasn't actually at the game ... because he was caring for his elderly grandmother.
Matthew Zajac, a 26-year-old mechanical engineering major at NMSU, lost both of his legs in May 2007 in an IED-induced explosion of his Humvee. Now, he's the only family for his 87-year-old grandmother Marjorie Seedorf. As such, he doesn't have a whole lot of time for football.
"It'd be nice to win the money, but my priorities were elsewhere," Zajac told the Las Cruces Sun. "It doesn't get to me."
Zajac added that the fact that he considers a day where he "didn't get blown up" to be a good day, and has a sense of perspective about the whole missed opportunity.
New Mexico State, for its part, is looking for another way to honor Zajac's service to country and family. "We are delighted this program gave us an opportunity to learn more about one of our students," NMSU deputy athletics director David McCollum said in a statement. "Matthew Zajac seems like a wonderful individual."
NMSU is trying to goose attendance at its games, a tough task when the school has lost 16 straight games. Every student is eligible to win the $2,000 prize, with other prizes of $250 and a VIP parking pass also up for grabs. At last Saturday's loss to San Diego State, the first game with the incentives in place, only 1,371 students were in attendance.