Yes, you read that correctly. And, yes, this is still an amazingly awesome story if you’ve been following along.
Monday, Texas Tech confirmed to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that Red Raiders center Tony Morales has been granted a rare seventh season of eligibility. The offensive lineman will be eligible to play in 2017 if he so chooses, and there seems to be little doubt that he will.
“I know I’ve got another year, for sure,” Morales said after Monday’s practice. “I already talked to compliance and (offensive line) coach (Lee) Hays and them. I worked too hard for too long. I didn’t rehab for four years to turn down eligibility.”
In March, it was announced that Morales had been granted a sixth season of eligibility and would suit up for the Red Raiders in 2016. And, if there were a picture next to the word “perseverance” in the dictionary, it’d be that of Morales taking the field this year. And next, as it turns out.
The Tech offensive lineman missed the 2011 season, his true freshman year, due to an injury sustained in summer camp. The same thing around the same time happened again in 2012. And again in 2013. And, unbelievably, again in 2014. That’s right, Morales missed four straight complete seasons because of injury.
Morales’ myriad health issues have consisted of a torn labrum in his right shoulder (2011); a strained knee ligament (2012); a torn labrum in his left shoulder (2013); and another knee issue in 2014.
The Avalanche-Journal offered a brief explanation as to how the NCAA made its decision:
A Tech spokesman said Tech filed for an extension of Morales’ five-year eligibility “clock” after last season and NCAA personnel who reviewed his case said Morales’ circumstances dictated he could have an extra two years — 2016 and 2017 — if he wanted.
Should Morales suffer an injury that costs him either the remainder of this season or any or all of 2017, that time will forever be lost as he will have exhausted all potential appeals for additional eligibility. There’s been good news on the medical front of late, though.
Finally healthy in 2015, Morales started six games at right guard last season. This season, Morales has started all eight games at center for the Red Raiders.
School-wise, Morales is currently working on a master’s degree (educational leadership) and may begin the pursuit of a second one given the additional year of eligibility.
While a seventh season is extremely rare, it’s not unprecedented. In fact, there’s a very recent example of it as San Jose State’s Deontae Cooper is currently in the midst of his seventh season. The running back made his collegiate debut in 2010 at Washington and spent his first six years with the Huskies before transferring to the Spartans in March of this year. This season, Cooper, who suffered three torn ACLs, is third on the team with 331 yards rushing.