Billy Welsh and John Gladwell

February 11, 2023

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Super Bowl LVII is Sunday, or as Eagles fan Billy Welsh calls it, The Battle of the Kidneys.

Welsh, 39, jokingly told The Philadelphia Inquirer that’s what he’s calling the game after receiving a living kidney donation from Kansas City Chiefs’ fan John Gladwell, 44.

Welsh, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Gladwell, of Kansas City, Missouri, met in 2001 while serving in the Marine Corps and went their separate ways, according to the paper. Nearly 20 years later, Gladwell came across a Facebook post from Welsh announcing that he had polycystic kidney disease. The genetic disorder which causes cysts to grow in the kidney, can lead to organ failure and the need for a transplant.

That post ignited the Marine bond: Gladwell immediately dug through records to check his blood type and later testing revealed he was a 99% match.

“He’s definitely my brother from another mother,” Welsh said to the paper about Gladwell. “All Marines are like that. If any of my other brothers came through and needed one of my organs … I would.”

The Inquirer reported that logistical issues quashed Gladwell’s plans to have his kidney removed in Kansas City and shipped to Welsh at the Nicoletti Kidney Transplant Center in Philadelphia. The duo decided that Gladwell would instead fly to Philadelphia for the procedure.

The kidney was successfully transplanted in October 2020.

“It’s literally life-saving,” Welsh said of their friendship.

The two deepened their bond through their football rivalry. When Gladwell, a security guard for the Chiefs, returned to Philadelphia in 2021 with his wife for follow-up tests, the two veterans and their families watched the Chiefs-Eagles game together. 

The two men will reunite again this week for the Super Bowl. After hearing about their story, the Chiefs and Eagles agreed to send Welsh and Gladwell to the Super Bowl in Arizona. They will watch the game side-by-side.