Former Jericho HS Football Star Who Beat Cancer Receives Accolades


Everyone’s life changed in 2020 when the pandemic upended what we knew as normal. In November of that year, Brandt Morgan found himself facing another challenge few could imagine. At age 15, the Jericho High School quarterback was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s T-cell lymphoma, a rare type of cancer.
During his many months of cancer treatment at a Long Island hospital, Brandt had two goals: to get well and to play football again. If he was a champion on the football field prior to his diagnosis, he would later prove that his courage and determination knew no bounds.
As soon as he could, he resumed training while receiving chemotherapy treatment, setting up a makeshift gym in his hospital room. Side effects of the grueling treatment weren’t Brandt’s only challenge. At one point, he had to overcome neuropathy in his legs that made walking difficult. He dealt with listeria and appendicitis that required another four-week hospitalization.
Brandt faced every challenge head on, and in September 2022, he was in remission and returned to the football field as QB-1 quarterback to play again. Many who know him call him a hero, including his mom Abby, who was with him every step of the way. “He’s a warrior, he’s my rock star,” she said. “I’m the proudest mom in the world.”
This month, Brandt received the “Honored Hero” award from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which pays tribute to individuals who inspire others with their stories of strength and courage.
For his outstanding character and determination, Brandt previously received the USA Football “Heart of a Giant” award presented by Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) and the New York Giants. The award recognizes high school football players in the tri-state area who demonstrate an unparalleled work ethic, extraordinary dedication and a passion for the game.
In late 2022, Brandt, who will turn 18 in April, faced another challenge that brought him to HSS. The cancer treatment, which included steroids, had contributed to the development of a condition called osteonecrosis in his right knee. Resulting damage to the cartilage and bone made it difficult for him to engage in weight-bearing activities such as running and climbing stairs. His best bet to repair the damage was a cartilage transplant.
Scott Rodeo, MD, vice chair of Orthopaedic Research, co-director of the Orthopaedic Soft Tissue Research Program at HSS, and Head Team Physician for the New York Giants performed a surgery known as OATS – osteochondral autograft transfer surgery.

Teenager Inspires Hospital Staff
HSS staff who got to know Brandt, even briefly, were impressed and inspired by his positive attitude and perseverance. Dr. Rodeo said he was struck by Brandt’s unwavering commitment to achieve his goal to play football again.
Stephen Melancon, PA-C, a certified physician assistant who works with Dr. Rodeo, said he was impressed by the way Brandt confronted a challenge that many adults would have trouble grappling with emotionally and physically. Now Brandt has a social media presence to help other young people diagnosed with cancer.
“For someone his age, with all that he’s gone through, not only to still be able to participate in sports, which is great, but to put himself out there and make himself a resource for other people – it proves he’s an exceptional young individual with incredible drive and outstanding character,” Melancon said.
“Brandt is truly the definition of exceptional. I don’t know anyone quite like him,” said Robbie Tran, senior director of Global Sports Marketing at HSS. “When faced with adversity, he set his mind on a goal and despite multiple setbacks fought until he accomplished what he set out to. He is an inspiration to many,” added Tran, who met Brandt when he received the Heart of a Giant award.
Brandt, who went home from HSS on New Years Eve, continues to make progress following his knee surgery. He is still in physical therapy, which is expected to last 4 to 6 months, and the prognosis is good. At this time, no additional surgery is planned, and he should be able to return to most activities, Dr. Rodeo said.

The Road Ahead and a Mission to Help Others
Although football may no longer be in his future, Brandt still has dreams and goals. He’s looking forward to college and a possible career in sports management. In the meantime, he is dedicated to helping other young people with cancer who contact him on social media or via a website he has created called “Comeback Kids.”
The site was born out of the kindness and generosity of a teenager who has been through a lot, as he seeks to encourage others, candidly describing his long journey from the moment he was diagnosed with cancer. He provides heartfelt advice on ways to cope and maintain a positive attitude. He communicates sincere empathy to comfort young people facing similar challenges.
“Your life can change in a heartbeat, like mine did,” he added. “I think this happened to me for a reason – that I was meant to help other people.”
—Submitted by Hospital for Special Surgery

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