Ironwood Ridge linebacker Anthony Morales comes back from brain tumor

Special to AllSportsTucson.com from Desiree Morales.

(Note: No relation to this Morales family)

My name is Desiree Morales. I’m writing to you about my son, Antonio “Anthony” Morales: “The Comeback Kid.”

Anthony played tackle football since he was 6-years-old, starting with the Dolphins. Football is his one true love! He started his freshman year at Ironwood Ridge and freshman football was great but that came and went.

Anthony started struggling with his grades. We just took it as not focusing hard enough, video games, being a teenager, etc. His grades cost him eligibility to play most of sophomore year. Sophomore football came and went. Things changed for us the morning of Feb. 12, 2018.


On our way to school, I pulled up to parent drop off, he didn’t get out right away and I looked at him and could tell right away he was having a seizure. I took him straight to Northwest hospital where he seemed fine and was back to himself. We weren’t sure what was going on but he seemed fine. They wanted to run some test and do a scan and when they came back from that I said he didn’t look right and the nurse said oh he’s fine, he did great and about thirty seconds later, he was having a grand maul seizure.

It scared the hell out of us. We’d never seen anything like that before! I thought he was dying!! They found a 1.5cm size tumor in his brain and transferred him to Banner Children’s Hospital because they said Banner had better machines to see what was actually going on. The MRI there showed it to be a little bigger and was sitting near his speech area of the brain. This would explain the little episodes he was having off and on in class -wanting to say an answer in class but couldn’t get it out.

Surgeon said he was having mini seizures. He never told us about this because he thought I would pull him from football thinking it was related. His doctor came in and said he needed surgery. Friday, Feb. 17, 2018 was surgery day. Anthony did amazing, never took any pain medications, never complained once or was upset. His surgeon came in and told us they got it all and that he probably had this for about a year and a half because the tumor had calcium growing around it, that it was putting a notch in his skull.

Surgeon told Anthony he would probably never play football again. This was the only time I ever saw him get upset about any of this…the words, “you’ll never play again” hit him hard! We eventually went home and had many, many more doctor visits. I remember his oncologist telling me about his brain tumor and how Senator John McCain was at a 4 and Anthony was at a 2. I still couldn’t believe we were going through this. Since the surgeon removed everything and the next MRI came back clear, no radiation or chemo was necessary. He would need an MRI every three months and then one each year for the next ten years.

Here’s the amazing part: his Surgeon, after doing some research and going to another seminar, informed us at another visit that he was going to slowly clear him to play football. My son was over the moon with excitement!!

Six months later he was back on that field. I broke down in tears the first time he was back out there doing what he loved!! Then just like that junior year was over. Lots of summer training going on during the summer heading into senior year. Bad luck strikes again, May 5, 2019 he’s doing a hang cling and snap goes the wrist.

This boy has will power and such drive to play that game, he completely heals again and has been enjoying his senior year as a starting linebacker for the Nighthawks. With only two games left in the season, I couldn’t be prouder of my “Comeback Kid”, to see him having a blast and to have so much love for this sport!!


Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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