Miami (Fla.) Quarterback Stephen Morris Talks About Loving A Sport He Once Hated
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
"I hated it."
Those are the words of a young man talking about college football. A man who plays quarterback at an elite school. A man who broke his school's single-season total offense record of 3,415 yards which had been previously set by quarterback Bernie Kosar in 1984.
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris hated football? He really, truly hated it.
Baseball was his sport.
"My dad always took me to this park next to our house called Cagni Park in North Miami, and that's where I first started playing baseball," he told Bleacher Report.
Across the field he noticed boys practicing football. At around six or seven years old, he "hinted" to his father that he would like to play the sport.
Morris joined an organized football league the next year. "I hated it...I hated it," he said. He recalled his youth football experiences with a touch of self-deprecating humor.
"I wasn't used to the contact, the conditioning...I was out of shape. It was terrible. I remember growing up... hating it. In my first two years playing it I was skipping conditioning, coming to practice late. I missed all the conditioning and everything. I hated it."
Morris wasn't done with his rant. It was almost comical.
"I watched football all the time but it is different when you're watching football and when you're playing it."
Morris wanted to play football because all of his friends were. But he could not find a position that, well, he didn't hate.
"They tried me out at different positions," he explained.
"I think my first position that I played was center. When I was on the [offensive] line, I was uncoordinated. Then I moved over to defense. I played linebacker and safety. And then I finally moved back to the offense again. I played running back. I didn't like that because I'm not much of a runner. I wasn't that fast."
He finally tried out at the quarterback position in his second year. He liked it, and he never looked back.
At Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, Morris threw a career 3,536 yards. He was a dropback passer and admitted he "wasn't really much of a runner."
Head coach Alvin Slaughter got him out of his comfort zone and changed his way of thinking.
"A lot of times [Slaughter] called defenses just to make sure no one would be open and he would force me to run," Morris recalled with a chuckle.
That no guts, no glory philosophy worked. The Florida native got his offer from Miami and Slaughter joined the special teams staff at LSU in 2012. And the kid who didn't think he could run was clocked at 4.55 in the 40-yard dash.
Morris comes from a very successful family. His mother and father own a public relations firm and his sister recently graduated from the University of South Florida. "The way my parents brought me up—they always made sure we were in school, getting good grades and doing the right thing," he said. "I think it is very important."
Yet there is definitely a playful side to Morris.
When I asked him where he was born, he answered "in the hospital' without hesitation. "I love to have fun," he admitted. "I'm probably the biggest goofball you could ever imagine." Right now, he is having a lot of fun.
In his three years at Miami, Morris has had a total of 17 starts. He started all 12 games last year throwing for 3,345 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Against Georgia Tech he went 31-of-52 for 436 yards. He threw for 566 yards against North Carolina State and 413 yards against South Florida. And he broke Kosar's record.
"I was humbled by it," he said.
"When you think about all the great quarterbacks that have come through here, the amount of talent that this school has produced, to have your name still above everyone else's on the record board, that means a lot to me. That definitely means a lot to my family, to my friends, and especially to the O-line for the way they protected me all season. It is really a tribute to everybody on the offensive side of the ball."
But Morris isn't satisfied.
"We can do so much better," he said. "There were a lot of opportunities that we lost. I'm definitely going to break my own record this season."
Morris says he wants to focus on making better decisions this season. He also believes the team's goals should stay in the locker room—he won't divulge what the Hurricanes are shooting for this year. Despite the pending NCAA sanctions hanging over the school like a dark cloud, Morris thinks the fans will be happy this year.
"The best is yet to come," he said.
"We appreciate the fans that do come out. As far as the fans that don't come out, that doesn't hurt us, that doesn't bother us."
The team has bonded. The Hurricanes have endured a two-year self-sanctioned postseason ban in hopes of appeasing the NCAA's final punishment over an investigation of multiple players reportedly receiving impermissible benefits. Head coach Al Golden has kept the players focused by looking ahead. He has also amused fans with his sideline attire.
Golden has been called "The Tie" due to his constant wearing of white dress shirts and bright-colored ties.
"I think it has definitely become a fashion statement with the fans and the students around campus," he said. "I think it's a great statement."
So too is Morris' final verdict on college football, the sport he once hated.
"It's the love of my life."
Note—all quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise noted
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