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Colts get the man they want: LB Morris

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Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 09:11 PM

  Morris' idea of fun includes jumping into a swimming pool from the third story of his apartment building. Tom Hauck/Allsport

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.

Colts First-Round Draft Picks
Year  Player  Pos  School 
2000  Rob Morris  LB  BYU 
1999  Edgerrin James  RB  Miami (Fla.) 
1998  Peyton Manning  QB  Tennessee 
1997  Tarik Glenn  OT  California 
1996  Marvin Harrison  WR  Syracuse 
1995  Ellis Johnson  DT  Florida 
1994  Marshall Faulk  RB  San Diego St. 
1994  Trev Alberts  LB  Nebraska 
1993  Sean Dawkins  WR  California 
1992  Steve Emtman  DE  Washington 
1992  Quentin Coryatt  LB  Texas A&M 
1991  NO PICK       
1990  Jeff George  QB  Illinois 
1989  Andre Rison  WR  Michigan State 
1988  NO PICK       
1987  Cornelius Bennett  LB  Alabama 
1986  Jon Hand  DE  Alabama 
1985  Duane Bickett  LB  USC 
1984  Leonard Coleman  CB  Vanderbilt 
1984  Ron Solt  Maryland 
1983  John Elway  QB  Stanford 
1982  Johnnie Cooks  LB  Miss. State 
1982  Art Schlister  QB  Ohio State 
1981  Randy McMillan  RB  Pittsburgh 
1981  Donnell Thompson  DE  N.C. State 
1980  Curtis Dickey  RB  Texas A&M 
1980  Derrick Hatchett  DB  Texas 
1979  Barry Kraus  LB  Alabama 
1978  Reese McCall  TE  Auburn 
1977  Randy Burke  WR  Kentucky 
1976  Ken Novak  DT  Purdue 
1975  Ken Huff  North Carolina  
1974  John Dutton  DE  Nebraska 
1974  Roger Carr  WR  Louisiana Tech  
1973  Bert Jones  QB  Louisiana State  
1973  Joe Ehrmann  DT  Syracuse 
1972  Joe Drougas  Oregon 
1971  Don McCauley  RB  North Carolina  
1971  Leonard Dunlap  DB  N. Texas State 
1970  Norm Bulaich  RB  Texas Christian 

"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.

Related information
Harrison signs four-year, $24 million deal with Colts
Colts look for improvement from young WRs
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