At one point Morris even dated actress Vivica Fox (Independence Day, Booty Call), but he didn't restrict his socializing to Hollywood types. "He was the sweetest guy in the world, but he was crazy," says Erric Pegram, who split time at halfback with Morris after joining Pittsburgh in '95. "Our first night out, I put on a suit and was ready to go somewhere nice, and he takes me to this juke joint. It was a bad scene. People talk about keeping it real, but if you hang around dirt long enough, you're going to get filthy."
The filth hit the fan in Texas after Barn's positive test for alcohol last summer. Alcohol was not allowed under the terms of his probation. When the Rockwall County district attorney's office petitioned the NFL for the results of the test, the NFL refused, citing a confidentiality clause in the collective-bargaining agreement. "It angered the Rockwall authorities," Josh Kaufmann, Morris's agent, claims. "After that, there seemed to be a vendetta against Bam. He had been given clearance to miss some meetings with his probation officer and had been late to others, but [suddenly] they went after him for missed meetings." (Rockwall County district attorney Ray Sumrow denies that Morris was given permission to miss sessions with his officer and insists there was no vendetta, adding that the NFL's refusal to grant the test results "did not enter into the situation whatsoever. We didn't need those to make the case.") In January, Morris pleaded guilty to violating terms of his probation and accepted a sentence that included 120 days in jail and a $2,000 fine as well as a warning from state district judge Sue Pirtle that any involvement with drugs or alcohol—much less a violation of the law—would mean a 10-year jail term.
Morris's image had also suffered last November, when a scuffle involving his wife and April Brittain, a woman he had dated years earlier, broke out at a birthday party near Baltimore for Ravens tackle Orlando Brown. Morris says that he knew Brittain was in town and had hoped to avoid her. Furthermore, he had been assured that she would not be at the party. When she showed up, he told Stephanie he wanted to leave, but his wife and Brittain exchanged words and ultimately came to blows. Brittain filed a complaint with police, claiming that Morris had choked her, and police charged him with second-degree assault; Stephanie, who ended up with a black eye, countered with a similar claim against Brittain, who was charged with the same offense. The Baltimore County district attorney's office declined to pursue either case, but Bam knew instantly that the incident would seal his departure from the Ravens. "We went back to the car," Stephanie recalls, "and he sat there screaming, 'I can't believe this is happening to me!' Then he took his fist and punched the windshield, and it shattered."
It's far too early to paint a rosy picture of Morris's current circumstances, but there are positive signs. In jail he was a model citizen, working 16-to 18-hour days, helping another inmate learn to read and getting out 30 days early because of good behavior. "He didn't act all high and mighty," says Joel Garza, one of Morris's cellmates. Adds Sgt. Trevor Hurst, a guard who supervised Morris, "I think he has learned his lesson. He's a very caring person. One of my officers nearly collapsed in the hallway and had to be rushed to the hospital, and he was the one who helped her."
Morris spent a good amount of time reading Bible verses and wrote the first love letters of his life, to Stephanie. "They were mushy," she says. "He told me that he recognized his mistakes and that he realized he wasn't the husband that he should've been. We've had a rocky relationship, but we're past that."
Both Bam and Stephanie are tempted to blame others, especially Brittain, for their predicament. Brittain showed up at Barn's sentencing hearing in January and later made several unsuccessful attempts to visit him in jail. The Morrises say that after the confrontation between Stephanie and Brittain, a player then with the Ravens handed Brittain his cellular phone and urged her to call the police. "Some player invited her to that party, and he knows who he is," Stephanie says. "You look at it now, and you think it was all planned. When you're down and out, you find out who your friends are, and there aren't many now that Barn's not out there scoring touchdowns."
"We've just withdrawn from society," Bam says. "It's just us and our family now; that's what it always should have been about. I won't make excuses. I've got a dark cloud over me, but my mistakes brought it on."
Morris has been working out and dieting, and hopes to sign with a team by June 1. "If it's meant to be, it'll happen," he says. "Before all of this, the thought of not playing football would have been devastating. Now I'm thinking of my family. The last two years have aged my mom 10 years, and she deserves better. I'm just taking it step by step, and it's going to be a long haul."
Bam smiles as his 10-year-old stepdaughter, Courtney—Stephanie's child from a previous relationship-unveils a silly hairdo that is spiked straight upward. He clenches Stephanie's hand as the blood-orange sun prepares to set on the Texas plains. "A few months ago there were people telling me to leave him, saying, 'He's a bum,' " Stephanie says. "But I know in my heart that he is evolving into a great man, and when he reaches that, it will be awesome."
As the sunlight fades, Bam tilts his head back and closes his eyes. Tonight his sleep will be peaceful, and that's a start.