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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended April 16, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 15Apr00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

BYU's Morris a bit crazy, and thankful for it
CBS Sportsline 10Apr00 S2
By Len Pasquarelli: Senior Writer

PROVO, UTAH -- BYU's Rob Morris is expected to be chosen in the first round of the NFL's draft on Saturday, the eighth BYU player to be chosen in the first round, and the first time that BYU has had first-round picks one year after another. Last year, offensive lineman John Tait was chosen 14th overall in the draft. CBS Sportsline ranks Morris #5 among linebackers.

Morris has cultivated and developed a reputation for being a little crazy, which helps in a position known for its gritty reputation. In a position known for its nastiness, a reputation for lunacy gives credibility to the idea that the player will do just about anything to win. But in spite of his lunatic actions, Morris , a returned LDS missionary also has a reputation for being a great guy and for helping others -- albeit one that he plays down for his career.

Morris' outspokenness reached the level of social conciousness last year when he spoke out criticizing BYU's honor code, wondering if black players at nearly all-white BYU were being victimized by prejudice, which often lead to their run-ins with the code. But Morris is almost embarrassed by any credit given to him for speaking out, especially because it conflicts with building the wild reputation.

Instead, he'd rather concentrate on the more zany stunts in his career. One of the craziest was when he and his roommates, including last year's first round pick Tait, were in the Florida Everglades. Morris decided he wanted Tait to take a picture of him with an alligator, and jumped a fence to get a little closer. He soon found himself staring down a 7-foot gator, much closer than he had planned. Surprised by the animal's speed, Morris may have beat his own 40-yard dash record. "I never knew an alligator could move so well. But those suckers can run. It was all I could do to get away. It wasn't too comfortable being the 'chasee' instead of the chaser."

Tait, who still took the pictures in spite of the danger, says the pictures are hilarious.

But Morris' stunts don't stop there. He has painted his toenails, eaten out of a dog bowl, persuaded his teammates to bleach their hair and jumped into his apartment complex's swimming pool from his third-floor window. "He takes pleasure taking it all to the extreme," says Tait.

BYU tried to get in on the act when promoting Morris for the Butkus Award last season. Morris became known locally for a comment he made comparing his sacks to "a freight train hitting a Yugo." The comment caught on, and Morris earned the nickname 'freight train.' BYU then promoted him by passing out wooden whistles to the media and fans, urging them to blow the whistles when Morris made a tackle.

But Morris found the whole thing annoying. Teammate Margin Hooks explained to Sportsline, "The truth is that whole whistle thing was too cute for Rob. I mean it's almost like he wished he'd said, 'You know, sacking the quarterback is kind of like dismembering somebody.' Then they would have handed out hatchets and he'd have loved it. He is a great guy, but you don't want to (mess) with him on the field because he works himself up into such a frenzy. But I think most linebackers are a little half-loose or have something crazy in their background."

Where will Morris go? Well its hard to say, with so many teams vying for players in the first round. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says that he could go to the Seattle Seahawks, who desperately need to fill a middle linebacker spot. The Seahawks have both the 19th and 22nd picks in the first round, and could take Morris then, says the Post-Intelligencer's sports analyst Clare Farnsworth. But Farnsworth also notes that the Seahawks have needs at other positions that may be greater. He says they need a Defensive Tackle more than a linebacker, especially since they may have injured DeShone Myles returning to the spot, or be able to pick-up Penn State's undervalued Brandon Short in the second round.

But, Farnsworth evidently thinks Morris would have great value for the Seahawks, in part because his zanyness isn't the kind that will get him into legal trouble, and because, after serving an LDS mission, he is more mature than most draft picks. "Some people think I'm off biting the heads off chickens when I'm not playing." says Morris. "But I am a person with strong religious beliefs, and I respect the beliefs of others. I think I'm intelligent. I like helping people. Hopefully, those kinds of things will stick out about me, too."

Farnsworth thinks that they do, "He talks in complete sentences. He does not refer to himself in the third person." And Farnsworth believes Morris is a good player, too. "He punctuates many of his plays with exclamation-point hits."

See also:

Hawks on a mission for a linebacker
Seattle WA Post-Intelligencer 13Apr00 S2
By Clare Farnsworth: Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter

Morris Could Make Cougs 2-for-1st Round in NFL Draft
Salt Lake Tribune 14Apr00 S2
By Michael C. Lewis: Salt Lake Tribune


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