Work in Sports
Colts get the man they want: LB Morris
Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 09:11 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indianapolis Colts picked Rob Morris in the first-round of the NFL draft and immediately penciled him in as their starter at middle linebacker.
The Colts created a hole at middle linebacker when they cut Michael Barber, who started every game at the position last season.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Morris was the Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a junior for Brigham Young. He had 114 solo tackles and six sacks in 1998.
A fullback when he first joined the Cougars as a freshman, Morris led the Cougars with 110 tackles as a sophomore and demonstrated an ability to dominate a game.
A severe abdominal strain forced Morris to miss four games last year, but he still managed to have 76 tackles and six sacks while winning all-conference honors for the third straight season.
"He's a young man who can provide us with great stoutness in the middle," said team president Bill Polian, who is hoping he can be as successful with this year's 28th selection as he was the past two years when he picked Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James in the first round.
Polian said the only surprise in the opening round was the selection of Florida State kicker Sebastian Janikowski by Oakland and that Morris was the player the team hoped to get with the 28th selection. It was the latest the franchise ever has picked in the opening round, a position caused by the team's 13-3 mark in 1999.
"It is a case of a player matched up with a need," Polian said. "He's big and strong, at 250 pounds he runs the 40 in 4.6 [seconds] or thereabouts. ... He's an outstanding athlete. He can stop blockers in their tracks. He's an aggressive tackler."
A Mormon who served on a church mission in Canada, Morris is older that most draft selections at 25. After serving on the mission for two years, he sat out one year to learn the linebacking position.
"He told us way back in February [at the NFL combine] that the Colts were his choice. It's nice to know that you have a player who thinks highly of your organization," Polian said.
"From the time I sat down with Bill Polian ... and some of the coaches at the combine, I felt really good about the situation. I knew they had an interest in me. I obviously had a great interest in a team of that caliber that is going to be in the Super Bowl," Morris said. "I think the Super Bowl is real, real close."
A free-spirited individual who returned to BYU for his senior year when he could have entered the draft, Morris finished his career with 342 total tackles, including 223 solo efforts. He had six sacks in each of his last two years.
"I'm just a normal 'Joe' like anyone else. I just try to enjoy life and make the most of it. I just try to have fun," Morris said.
However, his ideas of fun are unusual. They include jumping into a swimming pool from the third story of his apartment building, attempting to whack alligators with a stick while cycling in the Everglades and surfing on the roof of a moving pickup truck.
"He's a throwback linebacker," Polian said. "We're going to put him in there and get his feet wet."
Polian said he received several telephone calls asking if he would be interested in trading down, but felt it was in the team's best interest to select Morris.
"A middle linebacker is a guy who plays the final role in the defense," Polian said. "He's an outstanding person. ... You can never have enough of them."
"I like to compare myself to a lot of old-school guys," Morris said. "I love the intensity that Dick Butkus displayed. You have to be a little bit mean like Ray Nitchke. Chris Spielman had that focus, and I just try to incorporate all those things into my game," he said. The Colts had one pick in each of the remaining six rounds and were expected to concentrate heavily on defense.