With All-Pro Corey Linsley signing with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency, the Packers will have a new starting center for the first time since Linsley’s rookie season of 2014. Green Bay has three in-house candidates with its starting guards, Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins and Lucas Patrick, and 2020 sixth-round pick Jake Hanson. Jenkins’ versatility might be too valuable to have him locked into center, and Hanson was not impressive during training camp.
Pittsburgh’s Jimmy Morrissey is our No. 5-ranked center.
Jimmy Morrissey didn’t get a single scholarship offer from at FBS program. He participated in a few camps but didn’t get an offer. He went so far as to send an e-mail to all 128 FBS schools.
“I have a Google Doc spreadsheet with every single recruiting coordinator or O-line coach,” Morrissey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
All he got were rejections.
Betting on himself, he turned down opportunities to play at FCS programs and walked on at Pittsburgh. Morrissey went from nonscholarship player to four-year starter to winner of the Burlsworth Trophy, which goes to the best college football player who began his career as a walk-on. The award honors former Arkansas walk-on and Indianapolis Colts pick Brandon Burlsworth, who died just days after being drafted in 1999.
“I am extremely honored to win this award,” he said during an emotional acceptance speech. “This award has been a goal of mine. Being a walk-on is a hard journey, but it is extremely rewarding. In the game of football, you get back what you put into it.”
Morrissey’s reward will be a spot relatively early in this year’s NFL Draft.
Talk about a rags-to-riches story.
Morrissey paid his own way to Pitt during his redshirt season of 2016. When he won the starting job in 2017, he was given a coveted scholarship in a memorable moment. As detailed by the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson complained that some center-quarterback exchanges had been messy and needed work, so head coach Pat Narduzzi ordered Morrissey and quarterback Max Browne on the field.
But when Morrissey walked out to start the drill, he was handed a football from Browne informing him that he was being awarded a scholarship.
“We kind of set it up in practice the day we knew we were going to give it," Narduzzi said earlier this week. "We kind of pretended like it was a fumbled snap. Max pulled out of there like he broke his pinkie on the snap.
“After practice, we called him up and I said, ‘Good practice, but we can't have these bad snaps. Jimmy, you and Max need to practice a little bit. Why don’t you come up here and get a few?’ And we had a ball that was painted up for him special that said, ‘Jimmy Morrissey, you’re now on scholarship.’So it was an exciting time for our kids and Jimmy, obviously. I know his family was touched by it.”
Morrissey started 47 games and was a three-time all-ACC selection.
“It’s been a crazy four-and-a-half years,” Morrissey told the Post-Gazette. “If you asked Jimmy Morrissey in January of 2016 when I said I was going to walk on, this is probably the best scenario that could have possibly happened. I’m just really fortunate for the people that were around me, for my parents and the advice they’ve given me and the relationships I made. ... I couldn’t have asked for a better college experience at Pitt. And it’ll always hold a special place in my heart.”
Morrissey’s final time in a Pitt helmet came at the Senior Bowl. Morrissey wasn’t invited to the all-star showcase but was added to the roster on the eve of the game due to injuries. He got the call from Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, took a quick shower, drove from Pensacola, Fla., to Mobile, Ala., got a crash course in the offense, then played center and both guard spots.
“I got a to-go dinner plate and went up to my room. I hadn’t eaten all day,” he told TribLive.com. “I studied for three hours, got some sleep, woke up (Saturday morning), went down to Mass, got my ankles taped, ate breakfast and went and played ball.”
Measureables: 6-foot-3 1/4, 303 pounds, 32 3/4-inch arms. 5.31 40, 4.47 shuttle, 26 bench-press reps.
Stats and accolades: A two-year captain, Morrissey was all-ACC his final three seasons, including a first-team choice as a junior and senior. Morrissey allowed three sacks the past three seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. Those came in 2020, when he was charged with four hits and 19 total pressures in eight games. Sports Info Solutions blamed him for only one sack and nine blown blocks (three on runs). He was flagged just once for holding the past three seasons.
NFL Draft Bible says: With 47 career starts under his belt, he brings plenty of experience, intelligence and leadership (team captain). He possesses a thick, stout lower body, along with powerful legs and thighs. Morrissey does an excellent job keeping feet chopping upon and through contact. When he’s not busy serving up pancakes on the field, Morrissey can often be found in the film room or weight room during the week. While he has some limitations athletically, which limits his ceiling, he has a high floor and will be a sturdy, safe selection.
About This Series
Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft. The series is starting with the top five at each position, then will add additional players as the draft approaches, with a focus on positions of need.