Tech center Tony Morales, with NCAA's blessing, to return for seventh year in '17

Texas Tech center Tony Morales will return to the team in 2017, which will be his seventh year in the program.  John Moore, For A-J Media
John Moore, For A-J Media
Texas Tech center Tony Morales will return to the team in 2017, which will be his seventh year in the program.

Center Tony Morales will return for a seventh year in the Texas Tech football program in 2017, approved by the NCAA, so he won’t go through Tech’s senior day recognition on Saturday. Morales missed four full seasons due to injuries.

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.

“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.”

Morales signed with Tech in 2011 and missed his first four seasons. He’s had three surgeries, to repair a torn labrum in each shoulder and a torn ACL. He also had a knee injury that he rehabbed without surgery. Each of the four sidelined him for a season while his twin brother Alfredo, a Tech senior in 2015, made 37 career starts at guard.

Tony Morales said he always felt the support of his fellow linemen and coaches.

“They always motivated me,” he said, “and I always have motivation myself to overcome those injuries. It’s an honor. I looked at it as a great opportunity to further my education and play for the Red Raiders.” 

Last year, as a fifth-year senior, Morales made his first six career starts at guard, and he’s started all eight games at center this season.

Morales has a bachelor’s degree in general studies and is working on a master’s in educational leadership. With another year, he said he might pursue a second master’s degree.

An online search turned up at least three other major-college football players in recent years whose eligibility the NCAA has extended through seven years: Central Florida offensive lineman Cliff McCray, Utah running back Darryl Poston and current San Jose State running back Deontae Cooper. McCray was granted sixth and seventh years in the spring of 2010. He reportedly had missed two seasons because of a congenital heart condition and one after the death of a roommate. Poston missed all or most of his first four seasons with injuries and was granted a sixth year after the 2005 season and a seventh year after the 2006 season. Unlike the others, Cooper’s career was extended on the front end after three ACL surgeries sidelined him for his first three seasons (2010-12) at Washington. With medical hardship waivers, Cooper started playing as a freshman in 2013 and went to San Jose State as a graduate transfer this season — his seventh in college football.

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