Rio Rico senior Ricky Perez was only one week removed from his last chemotherapy session when he ran on to the field last night ready to play football at Rincon High School.
Perez responded with a rushing touchdown captured here by KVOA-TV’s Ari Alexander:
Last season, as a Junior @rickyperez1125 had 15 touchdowns.
Less than 4 months after a cancer diagnosis, this is his first TD of 2017: pic.twitter.com/EXprmy42MI
Rio Rico lost 49-14, but on this night, the score did not matter. Life mattered.
Perez, 17, was diagnosed with stage one testicular cancer in May. The examination also revealed tumors in his lymph nodes and lungs.
The doctors removed the testicular tumor and recommended chemotherapy for the tumors in his lymph nodes and lungs.
Perez started those treatments in late June and completed them a week ago before the doctors gave him clearance to play.
Perez led all Southern Arizona running backs last year with 1,235 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns despite his thin frame of 5’9″ and 180 pounds. Returning to the football field is something he always planned following his diagnosis of having cancer.
“It just makes me kind of stronger as an individual, plus I’m just trying to find a way to contribute to my team,” Perez told the Nogales International in August. “Just being there for them – they counted on me for something different last year – but at least I’m here to give them support and be there for them whenever they need me.”
Perez carried the ball twice last night for seven yards, including his touchdown, and had three receptions for 70 yards.
The numbers are one thing; his presence meant everything to his teammates.
Rio Rico coach Zach Davila knows how inspirational Perez is to his teammates, win or lose, with or without cancer.
“This is my second year coaching him, and from day one, right away what stood out to me was his work ethic,” Davila told the Nogales International. “In the classroom, he has a 3.8 GPA, so he works hard in class as well. He’s just a great kid.”
One week ago, @rickyperez1125 finished his last round of chemo.
This is his first catch in pictures: pic.twitter.com/4Mk5AVCVRs
Recently, Perez tweeted the following message to some of the Arizona Cardinals’ standouts with the hopes of meeting them. Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson and Tyrann Mathieu should do themselves a favor and meet this kid.
No NFL player has a greater will to be on the football field and succeed in life than Perez.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.