“Let the kid play.”
Those are four words that Anthony Myers' teammates, friends and family will never forget.
Less than three weeks after being diagnosed with brain cancer in October 2018, and being told he could no longer play football for Berks Catholic, the sophomore running back was granted a reprieve.
He was given medical clearance to play in the Saints district playoff game against Milton Hershey, and his performance brought tears to the eyes of those watching.
Myers scored a pair of touchdowns, one on a stirring 80-yard punt return, and was carried off the field by his teammates following the 49-21 win.
Less than 13 months later his long battle with cancer has ended.
The 17-year-old died at home Tuesday shortly after 4 p.m., a family source confirmed to the Reading Eagle.
Myers attended his last football game, between Berks Catholic and Wyomissing, Oct. 25. He was an honorary captain for the “Backyard Brawl.” He was assisted to midfield by his brother, Nico, and former teammate Terrance Derr.
He spent the final weeks at home, in hospice care, surrounded by family, friends and teammates.
“He believed there was a cure out there somewhere, and he was going to do his part fighting this battle,” said Berks Catholic football coach Rick Keeley. “Miracles can happen, (but) the disease kept winning some battles.”
News of Myers' death spread quickly Wednesday, and there was an immediate outpouring of emotion and sympathy on social media.
Wilson quarterback Kaleb Brown remembered his friend as “the nicest, most respectful, most humble kids I've ever met.”
Myers attended Penn State's “Whiteout” game against Michigan Oct. 19 with his brother and father, Ed. His physical condition worsened rapidly after that. He had not attended school since mid-October.
Myers, an all-league defensive back as a sophomore in 2018, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Anaplastic Astrocytoma in October 2018. He sat out the next two games before playing against Milton Hershey.
“He knew he had one more shot to get it done,” Keeley said after the game, “and he took advantage of it. He played his heart out today.”
Myers went through brain surgery in November 2018, followed by a series of treatments over the next several months. He spent the early part of this year in New York, at Sloan Kettering hospital, and traveled to California and Alabama for further treatments.
Myers' battle with stage 3 brain cancer became a national story, with professional athletes who wore the same uniform number as him – No. 17 – rallying to his support. Lonnie Walker IV also sent a message of support.
He appeared on the NFL Network's “Good Morning Football” and was presented with tickets to Super Bowl LIII, courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles, who flew his family to Atlanta for the game.
The Eagles invited Myers and his teammates to a game against the New York Giants. He went on the field before the game and met Eagles coach Doug Pederson and Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
Myers' story generated wide community support. The Team17Strong committee was formed, and more than $50,000 was raised to help his family with medical costs.
Students from schools throughout Berks County and beyond wore 17Strong bracelets and T-shirts in support.
Throughout his lengthy battle Myers remained upbeat and an inspiration to his teammates. Even though he was not allowed to play this season he continued to work out with his teammates. When he lost full use of his left arm earlier this year he continued to lift weights with his right arm.
Former teammate Luis Garcia, now a freshman at Lebanon Valley College, said it was difficult to watch Myers' condition worsen over the months.
“When we would lift together, he would be the one motivating me to put that extra set in,” Garcia said. “To see all of that deteriorate and get away from him … it's very upsetting.
“To go from seeing him every day in school and on the football field to not seeing him maybe once every couple weeks … it breaks your heart,” said Garcia, “especially with someone like Anthony who works so hard and is so dedicated to what he does, whether it's school, football, or anything.”
Garcia wore Myers' No. 17 jersey in the 2018 “Backyard Brawl” against Wyomissing and caught a touchdown pass on the Saints' first possession, sparking them to a 28-7 victory.
“Finding out that he was going to play (again against Milton Hershey), when we all thought he was never going to play again, it was very exciting,” Garcia said. “We were all very happy for him, and we wanted to make sure that if it was his last game – and it was – that he went out with a bang.”
Feeney Funeral Home in Reading announced that visitation for Myers will be Sunday, from 2 to 8 p.m. A Mass is scheduled for Monday.