In 1976 the Douglas Bulldogs had 49 total players on their football roster; 18 of those were key returning players.
That same year Rose was named Offensive Player of the Year. He also won KTAR’s Co-Player of the Year award at The Arizona Republic’s All-State banquet. This award was equivalent of the Heisman trophy, only on the Arizona high school level.
Former Douglas High School football coach Sawin said in a 1976 article that appeared in the Arizona Republic, “I think that the trophy is symbolic of the hard work Tony has put into football for the last four years. He’s a fine young man and a credit to his family, school and community. I feel very fortunate to have been coaching a man of his caliber for the past four years.”
According to the 1976 article, Rose, the most prolific passer in Arizona high school history, his career totals were 279 completions in 694 attempts for 5,281 yards, 65 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. He also had 851 yards rushing and a total touchdown responsibility of 83, or 20.75 per year that he played.
“Everything I every accomplished in football I did because of Tony,” said Rose’s longtime favorite receiver, Bill Salzbrenner.
Rose and Salzbrenner have been compared to Troy Aikan and Michael Irvin by many friends and fans.
“It was unbelievable playing with Tony,” Salzbrenner said. Rose and Salzbrenner still hold the record for longest touchdown pass, 99 yards in 1975 vs. Tucson Rincon.
He was tough, he was a leader that commanded respect, said Salzbrenner. “He never yelled or used any harsh words, we just knew to listen.”
In 76, the Bulldogs with Rose as their quarterback captured the right to participate in the state divisional’s, Douglas was matched against Globe. Douglas controlled the game from the opening kick-off to the closing minute, winning 22-14.
The state championship game with CDO proved to be a different story. CDO won the game 24-15, despite the Bulldogs valiant efforts and their “never quit” attitude.
Rose, 54, now fights another battle with his “never quit” attitude. The former Bulldog quarterback was diagnosed with terminal cancer last month.
Rose complained of back pains in late June but attributed it to age. “We told him go to the doctor,” said Gloria Skinner, friend and co-worker. “He said I’m just getting old.”
Finally no longer able to bare the discomfort from the back pain, Rose went to a emergency room where a CT scan, was done on him.
“The doctor came in and told us that he had a large mass on the left side of his brain,” said his sister Marget Baldenegro. “I did not quite understand so I asked the doctor to repeat himself.”
She and Rose were told by the doctor that he has seen similar tumors and he felt it was malignant.
He was taken to University Medical Center in Tucson, via ambulance and underwent many tests. There they found three malignant tumors in his brain, one on his lung and a benign tumor on his liver.
According to Baldenegro, doctors told her the cancer had metastasized from his lung to his brain. Rose who has smoked for many years never showed any symptoms or coughing.
Rose underwent radiation at UMC for 10 days; on July 26 a stent was inserted into his neck to administer chemo therapy.
“He’s amazing, he’s the one consoling everyone,” Baldenegero said. “He told me Margaret asi es la vida, such is life in Spanish, all I can do is pray and try everything to beat this.”
Rose, who is part of the grounds crew of the Douglas Unified School District has never missed work with over 600 days of personal and sick time.
“Tony has always been a hard worker and he’s done a very good job at DUSD, we never expected something like this,” she said. “This illness came very sudden.”
The maintenance department felt that they needed to do something for Rose. “We decided that we need to help out as much as we can,” stated Skinner.
Skinner spoke with co-works and all agreed to help, she then contacted Raul Montano owner of Border Mart and asked if he could help with a fundraiser.
Friends, family, and community members who know and respect Rose; fans who had seen this amazing and powerful player on the field and off are now coming together to support him.
On Saturday Border Mart will be hosting a hamburger sale from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., two hamburgers, chips and a soda for $6, all proceeds will go to Rose.
Tickets may be purchased in advance from Gloria Skinner at the DUSD maintenance department located at 1500 Estrella or the day of event.
“We love Tony, and want to help in anyway, the bond we have for him goes beyond football,” Salzbrenner said. “If anyone can beat cancer Tony can.”