Westfield student returns to gridiron after open-heart surgery

Sun News correspondentSeptember 11, 2013 

When Westfield School basketball player Tucker Moody collapsed on the bench during a January home game and had to be revived, the furthest thought from everybody in the gym was sports.

Thanks to life-saving CPR performed by an emergency room physician on the scene and corrective open-heart surgery at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta-Egleston, Tucker returned to competition less than a year later, playing running back for the Hornets football team in their opening game of the season against Tattnall Square Academy.

“I told my kids on the first day of practice that if I was them, it would be hard to be a little bit sick,” Westfield head football coach Ronnie Jones said. “He’s an inspiration to us, but he should be an inspiration to anybody that plays football. Sometimes, I’ll get out here and things are not going right, and then I’ll see him. He inspires me, too.”

Moody’s collapse was brought on by a condition his father, Trey Moody, described as “an anomalous left coronary artery congenital birth defect.”

“My aorta was in the wrong spot of my heart, and I’d had it ever since I was born, but just didn’t know it,” Tucker Moody said.

When Moody returned home from the hospital and finally rejoined his classmates at school, he was caught off guard by just how much attention he received.

“It was like I was a celebrity all of the sudden,” he said with a laugh. “I walk into school and everybody wanted to hug me, talk to me and ask me how I was doing.”

While he was eager to get back on the football field for his junior season, his coach was understandably apprehensive.

Coaching a player who had just underwent open-heart surgery is not something Jones had dealt with in his 37 years on the sideline.

“At first, when I heard about him (playing football), I’m not going to lie, I was a nervous joker,” Jones said. “To be honest with you now, after we’ve been through our weight program and been through spring football, I don’t even think about it anymore. He loves the game and wanted to be a part of it. The doctors cleared him, and I’m so glad he’s out here.”

Moody, a junior, beams when he speaks about football.

“(Football) is an experience like no other,” he said. “Being out here with all of my friends and playing football is just one of the best things ever. Words just can’t explain how much I like it.”

According to his coach, Moody’s quick return from such a harrowing experience just shows what kind of young man he truly is.

“He’s always had that kind of guts,” Jones said. “He’s not a big guy, but he goes hard in everything he does. Even before this happened, he was a leader. That’s just the way he is.”

Contact Ryan Jordan at rjordan398@gmail.com.

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