Zach Hunzinger walks Peoria Liberty (Ariz.) High School hallways for first time since being cancer free

Photo: Sean Logan/The Republic

Zach Hunzinger walks Peoria Liberty (Ariz.) High School hallways for first time since being cancer free

Football

Zach Hunzinger walks Peoria Liberty (Ariz.) High School hallways for first time since being cancer free

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Zach Hunzinger returned to school Wednesday for the first time since being diagnosed with cancer last year. And he experienced something he missed out on during his senior football season at Peoria Liberty.

Now, cancer free, Hunzinger walked the halls with the band playing and cheerleaders and football teammates following.

The Arizona Cardinals mascot walked alongside Hunzinger, holding a sign that said, “Zach is Back.” There were also a couple of Cardinals cheerleaders in tow. And cameras everywhere, capturing the scene.

This is school tradition on fall football Fridays at Liberty.

But because he was battling bone cancer, the offensive lineman and captain never got to feel the goosebumps of the school pumping up the players on game day with a hallway pep assembly.

It started outside Wednesday morning when Hunzinger showed up with his mom Megan and moved into the hallways.

“I was very surprised,” Zach said. “My mom told me I was going to sign some papers and that was it. I felt absolutely amazed. I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

Megan Hunzinger said that she was told about the planned event before it happened by Zach’s school counselor, Jennifer Hospelhorn, who helped set it up with Liberty football coach Mark Smith.

“I told him I had to go with him to sign him back into school,” Megan said. “He could have done it himself because he’s 18.

do that his senior year. They said, ‘You need to do that. That’s important.’ ”

“We put him up in front,” Smith said.

It was an emotional and profound moment for Hunzinger, who underwent rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to have part of his femur bone removed and replaced by a steel rod. His last scan showed that he was cancer free.

He goes back for another body scan and chest X-ray at the end of April.

This was another goal accomplished.

The first was beating cancer. The next was returning to school.

The next is college.

Megan said that Zach will begin his college journey at Glendale Community College. Football has been canceled by the Maricopa County community colleges. But Zach, while he still hopes to return to playing football again, will major in criminal justice and follow his father Chuck’s footsteps in becoming a police officer.

Zach won’t forget this day.

“To have such a good support group from my school was incredible,” Zach said. “I will never forget this moment ever.”

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.

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Zach Hunzinger walks Peoria Liberty (Ariz.) High School hallways for first time since being cancer free
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