The Wolfpacker

November-December 2023

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 21 of 51

22 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY NOAH FLEISCHMAN hile Carrollton (Ga.) High School's foot- ball offices were be- ing renovated ahead of the 2021 season, coach Joey King and his staff used the press box as a place to work. On one summer afternoon, King was the only person up there when he noticed a player walking out onto the field in the pouring rain: his new quarterback, MJ Morris. King watched as Morris set some cones down onto the ground and began to stretch while the clouds opened up above him. Morris had transferred back to Car- rollton for his senior season after spend- ing his junior year at Pace Academy. King wasn't his coach during his first stint with the Trojans, so while he was aware of Morris' talent, this was a new relation- ship for the coach. King watched as Morris began his indi- vidual work. With rain pelting the playing surface, he snapped a photo of the quar- terback, all alone on the football field, and later sent it to him with a simple message attached: "This is what great leaders are made of." That workout in a deluge offered a glimpse of things to come for King, who had previously coached Trevor Lawrence, a future national championship-winning quarterback at Clemson and No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick. "It's pouring down rain, and he's out there doing drill work for nobody to see," King said. "He didn't have his phone out taking pictures of himself, tweeting about how hard he was working. He was just out there working — that's who he is." Morris' work ethic helped him develop from an eighth-grader striving to make an impact at the varsity level to starting at NC State as a true freshman before taking the reins again this season. 'Yep, He's Got It' When Morris was in eighth grade, his father, Eddie, brought him to Carrollton coach Sean Calhoun and asked for an evaluation. Calhoun went along with it to see what the young quarterback had. He asked Morris to back up 10 yards and throw him a pass with the ball he had brought with him. That throw hummed toward Calhoun's hands and almost slipped through them near his face. The coach wasn't expecting it to arrive with that much zip. Calhoun thought at first that Morris must have been throwing a youth foot- ball, which is smaller than the balls that high school and collegiate players use. But when he looked down at it to toss it back, he realized it was a high school ball. "I was like, 'Yep, he's got it,'" Calhoun recalled. Not long after that meeting, Morris joined Carrollton for the team's varsity spring practices while still in eighth grade. He went through the drills and earned reps at quarterback, which he parlayed into a competition for the job in preseason practice. Morris didn't win the battle, but he did make several game appearances early in his freshman season. He went on to be- come the starter for the final five games after pulling away on the practice field. He didn't disappoint, either. Lyndon Cooper, now a redshirt soph- omore offensive lineman at NC State, played with Morris for two seasons at W SWEAT EQUITY A Penchant For Hard Work Has Allowed MJ Morris To Take Ownership Of NC State's Starting Quarterback Job Morris had originally been slated to redshirt this fall, but coach Dave Doeren opted to make a change at quarterback following a 13-10 loss to Louisville in September. PHOTO BY LARRY BLANKENSHIP

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