Carl Morris didn't want to make a scene. That's why he waited
until he was kissing his parents goodbye as he left his home in
Sterling, Va., for his junior year at Episcopal High, a boarding
school 30 miles away in Alexandria, to inform them that the
Episcopal soccer team's leading scorer had decided to become a
wide receiver. Morris excelled in basketball and baseball in
addition to soccer, but he had always wanted to play football.
His parents had barred him from the sport when he was growing up,
fearing he might be injured because of the lack of experienced
coaches at the youth level. They hadn't expressly forbidden him
to play high school football, but Carl wasn't taking any chances.
"I told them I was joining the football team, and then I was
off," says Morris. "That way there wasn't much time for
Morris caught just eight passes as a high school junior before
blossoming as a senior. Because of his late start in the sport
few Division I-A schools got a good read on his talent early
enough to make a recruiting push. He wanted to go to Virginia
along with his high school quarterback, Bryson Spinner, but the
Cavaliers put him on hold while they waited to hear from another
wide receiver recruit. Meanwhile Morris's father urged him to
fill out the questionnaire from Harvard. Carl did, and then
learned that he had a second cousin, Mike Brooks, who was the
Crimson's starting strong safety. Morris visited the school and
felt at home.
Now he's at home in the Harvard record book. The 6'3", 205-pound
senior holds all but one of the school's nine major receiving
records. Last year he had 71 catches for 943 yards and 12
touchdowns, winning Ivy League Player of the Year honors and
keying Harvard's 9-0 season, its first perfect campaign since
1913. Those figures all broke single-season school records that
Morris had set or tied as a sophomore. This year Morris, who runs
a 4.45 40, has 52 receptions for 811 yards and five scores
through six games for the 4-2 Crimson, adding to his career marks
with every grab. "What makes Carl exceptional is his ability to
raise his level of intensity and do things that even outstanding
athletes can't typically do," says Harvard coach Tim Murphy. "He
can seemingly will things to happen."
Morris burnished that reputation against Dartmouth last season.
In a span of just 3:51 he helped the Crimson overcome a 21-0
deficit by throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass, catching a 32-yard
touchdown pass, returning a punt 15 yards and catching a 40-yard
pass down to the Big Green's five-yard line. Against Penn in a
late-season showdown of Ivy unbeatens, Morris made what Harvard
Square denizens refer to reverentially as the Catch: a
full-speed, full-extension fingertip grab of a seemingly
overthrown pass that he took into the end zone for a 62-yard
go-ahead touchdown in the Crimson's 28-21 win.
At times it seems Morris simply can't be stopped by Ivy defenses.
On Oct. 12 against Cornell, Harvard quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick
threw Morris's way on five straight plays. The results: four
catches, followed by defensive pass interference. Morris finished
the day with a ho-hum 11 catches for 165 yards, including a
54-yard score. He also returned two punts for 27 yards and ran a
reverse for 23. "He's more skillful than the guys we have out
there," said Cornell coach Tim Pendergast. "We can't do anything
Morris's next home will likely be in the NFL. Murphy says Moore
has received more pro interest than any other player he's coached
in his nine seasons at Harvard, including Vikings All-Pro center
Matt Birk and Seahawks starting middle linebacker Isaiah
Kacyvenski. "There's no question he has the size and athleticism,
and he has upside because he's played so little competitive
football compared to other guys," says one NFL scout, who sees
Morris as a fifth-rounder.
Morris will get to show his ability against players from bigger
programs at the East-West Shrine Game in January. He'll finish
his degree in economics in June but plans not to use it for a
while. "It's every kid's dream to play in the NFL," Morris says.
"Hopefully I can make it work for a couple of years before I have
to get a real job." Rest assured, Vern and Jane Morris are
already on board with that decision.
Five Ivy Prospects
Here are five other league standouts.
PLAYER SCHOOL CLASS POS. HT. WT.
Chas Gessner Brown Sr. WR 6'5" 220
Lacrosse All-America leads Division I-AA in catches per game
(11.3); tied Jerry Rice's NCAA record of 24 versus Rhode Island
on Oct. 5
Dante Balestracci Harvard Jr. LB 6'2" 235
Two-time All-Ivy pick has 58 tackles, three sacks and an
interception this season
Brian Mann Dartmouth Sr. QB 6'2" 205
The pass-run threat ranks fifth in Division I-AA in total offense
(312.3 yards per game)
Robert Carr Yale Soph. RB 5'7" 185
Ivy leader in rushing (130.0 ypg); has 8 TDs; could threaten
Ed Marinaro's league sophomore rushing mark
Vince Alexander Penn Sr. DB 6'1" 220
Big hitter tied for Ivy lead in interceptions (4)